I read reviews before starting this book, but it's on Oprah's book club. How far off the mark could she be. OMG - seriously don't believe the hype. This book is BORING. I read books for the story, away from my life, not for a story that is more boring than my life. This book makes me want to kill myself. Ok. Ok. Not really. That may be a little dramatic. Drama is something you don't get from this novel. Its getting two stars only because I plan on finishing it, if I couldn't finish then it'd get one. ;)
Reading this brought a lot of Woody Allen to mind, except that as comedies of manner go the story is heavily preoccupied with the emotional dross of our post-Nixonian American condition, and because of that the story never quite takes flight. I was reminded also of Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage, because Franzen allows his characters free reign to work through the many pages of relationship dialectic that gives a novel of sentiment its engrossing inscrutability. Scenes from a Marriage, and other later Bergman movies, remain concise for all their laborious, winding verbal argument, because each point-counterpoint provides a glimpse into the novelty of the warring characters. The romantic or fraternal arguments of Freedom tend more toward a housekeeping routine, dusting off familiar heirlooms for several pages. It is somehow still engrossing, and I'm inclined to believe that it meets the requirements of a successful novel. The Berglunds and the people in their orbits endure decades of perfectly normal disappointment, and narrative arcs that require a considerable investment of a reader's emotional attention seek perhaps to formalistically reinforce these disappointments endemic to contemporary freedom by resolving flatly, or in the worst case of Joey Berglund, dissipatorily. It is not dark but it is a sincerely dim work of fiction, wrought by a genuine Eeyore.
On the audio recording:
LeDoux isn't bad... I agree with other reviewers that he appropriately applies tones of sarcasm and cynical reserve, yet has a range of tender modes that fit well when the going gets rough. I'm a listener who prefers less character acting for the presentation of multiple voices in the narrative. LeDoux does well with the 3 primary characters, especially as they grow over time. He handles Joey's voice spastically for such a keep-your-cool young man, and his rendition of Lalitha's accent is atrociously bungled, a serious disservice given the importance of her role.
It fizzled out like a person who set out to do an marathon and gets to the 23 mile mark and starts walking! I enjoyed the story as it unfolded with great character development and even as it veered off into all the relatives on both sides of the family and seemed like it was going to all pull together, it left me thinking "and so ...?" So glad the Indian woman died or I would have had to kill the reader for his horrific Indian accent. Hype raises expectations. I would have been more satisfied with out the hype.
I must admit. I was duped into buying this audiobook because of the glowing reviews written about by some sources that I read shortly after it had been released. Initially I was delighted that the audio version was available so quickly. Tragically, I was abruptly brought low after I had begun to listen to the recording. I agree with the review written in the Atlantic by B R Myers. I wish that I had read that review before making the mistake of purchasing this audiobook. I found myself fast-forwarding through sections of the recording which were either mind-numbingly soporific or too shocking to continue. In addition, this one ought not to get into the hands of young readers. It makes one think that books, like movies, should have PG, R, ..., ratings attached to them as a caution.
David LeDoux sounded like Shaggy from Scooby Doo. The story had some good parts but overall I was disgusted and amazed at how unneccesary most of the book was. Jonathan Franzen may have a head full of interesting facts but could use some help in deciding what's important in a story and what could be left out. His strong need to provide a shock factor in every character made most of them unlikable and very unrealistic. The only reason I finished the book was to discuss it at my own book club..Oprah, I cannot believe you picked this one?
I wish I had listened to this before all the hype because I probably would have liked it better. Story takes place over many years and I found the characters to be very inconsistent. I kept thinking, I don't think that character would have done or reacted to that situation that way. And where is the humor? "The Corrections" had a few laugh out loud moments as does any scathing Phillip Roth view of Americana. This book missed multiple ooprtunities to grind salt into the wound with humor. Finally, I found the narrator to be smug, almost condescending as if he needs to read the novel with a snarky voice so we the reader will understand that this is satire... I f you want contemporary, dark, sad and funny I recommend "American Pastoral". Not easy to get through, but genius...
Overall I enjoyed this book. The happy ending did make me forget some of the more dull, odd, tangents (endangered bird, mining mountail tops) the author went down thoughtout the book.
I decided to branch out and try this author, but it was a mistake. If I was reading a hard copy, I would NOT have finished it, I only finished this audiobook because I was on a long trip in my car. The first part was pretty good, getting to know the characters, but as the book went on, it got more drab and I realized I couldn't stand any of the characters. I really didn't care what happened to any of them, therefore, I really didn't care about the story from about halfway through to the end. I could not even tell you what the story was about!