Also by this author: Purity
Published by Macmillan, Picador on January 2010
Genres/Lists: Fiction, 1001 Books
Read synopsis on Goodreads
Buy the book: Amazon/Audible (this post includes affiliate links)
Before I even begin to review this book, let me preface it with the fact that I don’t know much about Jonathan Franzen other than he can be controversial. I had been warned by many that they dislike the authors so much that they can’t or won’t read the book, but I had no such scruples and am glad I didn’t bother to do any research before starting Freedom because I absolutely loved it.
The book, in a nutshell, is about a socially conscious set of parents and their two children, who, by all appearances, live a pretty idyllic life, at least until a series of events catapult them into a new life. Distanced from their son, socially awkward with their daughter, and reliant on the reliability of their relationship so far, Walter and Patty Berglund enter middle age with not a clue as to how they got there or where they are going. The best way I can describe them is to compare the family to a delicate piece of china that begins to fracture and fall apart after a cumulation of dings that were overlooked at the time that they occurred. Freedom tells the story of this disintegration, starting with Patty (the jock) and Walter’s (the nerd) childhoods and straight through to middle age.
Freedom reminds me a lot of The Casual Vacancy (read my review) because it relies on the intricacies of social propriety and duty while simultaneously peeking under the covers to see the human indecencies that are better left tucked away. It’s not a happy story, in fact it’s rather depressing in its realism, but it’s a pretty plausible story about the unexpected ways life can unfold as a result of previous decisions and hidden desires. My only complaint is that Patty became almost unbearable towards the end and I started to lose interest in her, which I believe detracted from the ending’s overall impact on me.
Recommended for: Fans of complex family dynamics and how they play out over time. It’s long, wordy, heavy, and fantastic – if you like that sort of thing.