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Freedom: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club) Paperback – September 27, 2011
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Amazon Best of the Month, August 2010: "The awful thing about life is this:" says Octave to the Marquis in Renoir's Rules of the Game. "Everyone has his reasons." That could be a motto for novelists as well, few more so than Jonathan Franzen, who seems less concerned with creating merely likeable characters than ones who are fully alive, in all their self-justifying complexity. Freedom is his fourth novel, and, yes, his first in nine years since The Corrections. Happy to say, it's very much a match for that great book, a wrenching, funny, and forgiving portrait of a Midwestern family (from St. Paul this time, rather than the fictional St. Jude). Patty and Walter Berglund find each other early: a pretty jock, focused on the court and a little lost off it, and a stolid budding lawyer, besotted with her and almost burdened by his integrity. They make a family and a life together, and, over time, slowly lose track of each other. Their stories align at times with Big Issues--among them mountaintop removal, war profiteering, and rock'n'roll--and in some ways can't be separated from them, but what you remember most are the characters, whom you grow to love the way families often love each other: not for their charm or goodness, but because they have their reasons, and you know them. --Tom Nissley
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
When Patty and Walter Berglund's teenage son moves in with their conservative neighbors and their perfect life in St. Paul begins to unravel, out spill family secrets--clandestine loves, lies, compromises, failures. David Ledoux's masterly narration is powerful and well paced, comic and poignant. He expertly captures Walter and Patty--with her anxious whinny of a laugh--and their family life with its satisfactions and histrionics. Ledoux also deftly renders the gossiping of the Berglund's disingenuous neighbors; the frenetic rants of the drug-addled Eliza; and the weary, disaffected drawl of sleazy musician Richard. A Farrar, Straus, and Giroux hardcover (Reviews, July 5). (Sept.) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Overall, I am giving this book a three because I really liked the flawed characters and how the author wrote them in a way that made me like them despite myself, and the story, or point of the book, but the author did not give the reader enough credit for grasping the implications of Walter's passion for conservation and over-population (something I completely agree with), and therefore, wasted some of this reader's time. But I also applaud him and am thankful to him for bringing up the issue of over-population. It is the White Elephant in the world and most people/all leaders are afraid of touching it. But now that I mention this, I guess that is why the author had to write so many pages about over-population...
Written well. Complex characters. Complex, yet rewarding story. But doesn't give the reader enough credit for grasping an idea (at least this reader).
1) Dip into the pages of Freedom and you'll just be swept along by the story, the characters, the observations of modern American life. The writing is effortless. You don't catch Franzen engaging in literary showmanship -- at least I didn't. (Not that I object to literary showoffs -- see Rushdie, Salman.) Franzen's style serves his sprawling story well.
2) Freedom contains some spectacular set pieces and riffs. One that struck a bit close to home for me: a description of Walter Berglund's self-righteous fury at other drivers.
3) Franzen's decision to attach his story to Bush 2-era politics sometimes seemed artificial and not completely thought out. Like at least one other Amazon reviewer, I didn't buy the notion of a 19-year-old University of Virginia student as arms dealer. Even so, Franzen does make some cutting observations of the American political scene circa 2004.
4) For most of the book, Franzen treats his characters with a detached amusement. Every one of them is deeply flawed, and Franzen's dissection can seem condescending and almost heartless (reminding me of the unflinching way the director Alexander Payne sometimes treats his characters). The Berglunds should have been heartbreaking, not just annoying. Then, in the last, I dunno, 50 pages or so, everything seemed to change. These pages are full of, well, love. So much so that...
5) I choked up when I read the final sentence.
Most recent customer reviews
pride, to humor.