Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Books like Freedom are the reason I love to read. Most of the books I read are fast-moving thrillers, full of suspense, twists, and turns - the exact opposite of this book. However, I feel like I would have missed a wonderful experience if I hadn't decided to read a book by Jonathan Franzen. Nine years ago Franzen won the National Book Award with Corrections. The fact that it was chosen as an Oprah's Book Club selection prevented me from picking it up though. Nothing against her personally, I just assumed our tastes in literature wouldn't coincide. Fortunately for me I bought Freedom before Oprah selected it for her book club as well.

Walter and Patty Berglund are a typical Midwestern couple. They marry young and while Walter fell head-over-heals in love with Patty the moment he first laid eyes on her, Patty never felt that way about Walter. In her mind, she feels like she always settled for Walter. She loves the way he treats her more than she loves him. He's an environmental crusader, always looking after the little guy, which eventually leads him to the plight of American songbirds. She's a former high school and college athlete who was initially attracted to Walter's roommate but agrees to date Walter only after his roommate rejects her advances.

The brilliance of this book is Franzen's characters. He follows the Berglunds and their two children throughout their lives. He exposes their flaws and shortcomings as well as their humanity in a way that I can't remember reading in another book. I can't say that I considered any single character in the book "likable," yet each one resonated with me, and ultimately I ended up caring about every one of them. My only qualification with recommending this book is its frequent adult content. Some will find that aspect of the book off-putting. But it would be shame if they put the book down because of it. The book as a whole is very rewarding and is sure to appear on every "Best of . . . " list for years to come.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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