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Freedom: A Novel | [Jonathan Franzen]

Freedom: A Novel

Patty and Walter Berglund were the new pioneers of old St. Paul - the gentrifiers, the hands-on parents, the Whole Foods generation. Patty was the ideal sort of neighbor, who could tell you where to recycle your batteries and how to get the local cops to do their job. She was an enviably perfect mother and the wife of Walter's dreams. Together with Walter - environmental lawyer, commuter cyclist, total family man - she was doing her small part to build a better world.
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Publisher's Summary

From the National Book Award-winning author of The Corrections, a darkly comedic novel about family.

Patty and Walter Berglund were the new pioneers of old St. Paul - the gentrifiers, the hands-on parents, the avant-garde of the Whole Foods generation. Patty was the ideal sort of neighbor, who could tell you where to recycle your batteries and how to get the local cops to actually do their job. She was an enviably perfect mother and the wife of Walter's dreams. Together with Walter - environmental lawyer, commuter cyclist, total family man - she was doing her small part to build a better world. But now, in the new millennium, the Berglunds have become a mystery. Why has their teenage son moved in with the aggressively Republican family next door? Why has Walter taken a job working with Big Coal? What exactly is Richard Katz - outré rocker and Walter's college best friend and rival - still doing in the picture? Most of all, what has happened to Patty? Why has the bright star of Barrier Street become “a very different kind of neighbor,” an implacable Fury coming unhinged before the street's attentive eyes?

In his first novel since The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen has given us an epic of contemporary love and marriage. Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom's intensely realized characters as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time.

©2010 Jonathan Franzen (P)2010 Macmillan Audio

What the Critics Say

"The Great American Novel." (Esquire)

"It’s refreshing to see a novelist who wants to engage the questions of our time in the tradition of 20th-century greats like John Steinbeck and Sinclair Lewis . . . [This] is a book you’ll still be thinking about long after you’ve finished reading it." (Patrick Condon, Associated Press)

“Writing in prose that is at once visceral and lapidary, Mr. Franzen shows us how his characters strive to navigate a world of technological gadgetry and ever-shifting mores, how they struggle to balance the equation between their expectations of life and dull reality, their political ideals and mercenary personal urges. He proves himself as adept at adolescent comedy as he is at grown-up tragedy; as skilled at holding a mirror to the world his people inhabit day by dreary day as he is at limning their messy inner lives . . . Mr. Franzen has written his most deeply felt novel yet—a novel that turns out to be both a compelling biography of a dysfunctional family and an indelible portrait of our times." (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)

What Members Say

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3.6 (3739 )
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  •  
    Karen los angeles, CA, United States 11-29-11
    Karen los angeles, CA, United States 11-29-11 Member Since 2013

    living in los angeles I drive a lot, so audio books save me from a lot of frustration!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I just didn't get it"

    Maybe it went over my head. The only thing that surprised me about this book was how much sex there was, since so many contemporary authors don't even bother with it. Of course, this being Franzen, the sex was not enjoyable to read, being a lot of pathetic, compulsive masturbation, men being led by their d---ks and people so caught up in their own misery and self consciousness that they can't enjoy it. This is my biggest problem with Franzen's writing -- he very much dislikes/holds at a distance/tortures his characters. So why should I care about them? However, after slogging through, albeit skimming a bit, the ending did get to me, but maybe it was due to the sheer relief that it was over.

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peregrine Los Angeles, CA, United States 09-19-10
    Peregrine Los Angeles, CA, United States 09-19-10 Member Since 2015

    If it weren't for Audible I'd never get any reading done.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not up to the hype; annoying reader, too"

    There are beautiful and heartbreaking passages in this novel, but far too many wasted pages (or wasted listening hours) on cardboard characters in banal situations. The section on the main characters' college years rang true, but I couldn't for one minute believe the passages about their son, or the young Indian woman, or the quixotic career one of them takes up about 2/3 through. The adulation this book is getting seems well out of proportion.

    The reader deserves special criticism for the sing-song, whiny voice he adopts, especially when in the voice of the female lead.

    43 of 54 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JOHN Plantation, FL, United States 10-31-10
    JOHN Plantation, FL, United States 10-31-10 Member Since 2003

    Audible Member Since 2003

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not as good as The Corrections"

    Like the rest of the world, I was very much looking forward to the release of Jonathan Franzen's new novel FREEDOM. In one sense, I was not disappointed, and Franzen continues to prove his writing prowess is no fluke. FREEDOM is chock full of the crazy family dysfunctionality that we grew to love in THE CORRECTIONS, actually a good bit more of it. And that might be the slight problem with this book - too much of it. When sometimes less is more, FREEDOM heaps on nutcase after nutcase.

    The characters in this book are very believable and we all know and/or are related to them. We just prefer not to know them too well. Still, I enjoyed this book a lot and would recommend it, but not quite at highly as Franzen's previous and best book.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard H. Ernst Park City, UT 09-25-10
    Richard H. Ernst Park City, UT 09-25-10 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "likable characters??"

    I tried to listen for one hour. Then I tried to listen for another hour. I quit listening. I did not like any of the characters. The writing seems shallow and the characters were not interesting. The plot was uninteresting.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mel Ziegler Mill Valley, CA. USA 09-22-10
    Mel Ziegler Mill Valley, CA. USA 09-22-10
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    "The Narrator is a Disaster, The Book a Dud"

    The most over-rated novel in many years. Annoying, cynical, smarter-than-thou, full of cheapshots. The characters have zero appeal. I might have tolerated the book a slight bit better had it not been for the fact that it was read by The World's Worst Narrator. If he doesn't annoy you at first, I guarantee he will! Listening to him after awhile sounded and felt like fingers on a blackboard. Full Disclosure: Didn't get beyond twentysome chapters but my days have lifted considerably since I stopped listening.

    13 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CB 09-21-10
    CB 09-21-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Do yourself a favor and skip this book"

    This novel is full of stereotypical people, boring, predictable and difficult to relate to or like.

    The reader is a good match, bad.

    13 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barbara Marietta, GA, United States 09-26-10
    Barbara Marietta, GA, United States 09-26-10 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Couldn't take it anymore..."

    I made it most of the way through Part One of this three part audiobook. The narrator was a little whiny, but I don't blame him because the book is VERY whiny. After 8 hours I have no idea what this book is about. It seems to be telling the story of a woman who shares my age, my ethnicity, my social standing, much of my history, so if I found it totally unappealing, for whom was this massive volume written? Dull dull dull. The writing is a snorefest and the characters would be better off joining a suicide cult or going to work for the GOP. Anything would be interesting. Maybe Audible will refuse this review because I didn't finish the book but nobody should be compelled to make that sacrifice. They should be happy I didn't ask for my credit back.

    12 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    joseph venice, ca, United States 09-17-10
    joseph venice, ca, United States 09-17-10
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    "SURPRISINGLY DISAPPOINTED"

    I read Corrections and I found it interesting. I only got through 1/3 of
    Freedom:A Novel. It just became tedious. (Considering all the fanfare, I'm wondering "what's wrong with me?") I found Jonathan Franzen a poor man's John Updike. Thought the reader was just so so.

    15 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth Abington, PA, United States 06-15-14
    Elizabeth Abington, PA, United States 06-15-14 Member Since 2008
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    "I hated this book!"

    I'm sorry to say this, but this book sucked! There is not a single character who is likable, everyone is a deciever and a cheat. Totally evil and self centered. I could not finish it, and I wish I could return it. Lousy listen!

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    T. Hibbs 10-16-11
    T. Hibbs 10-16-11 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "What a waste of a credit!"

    I purchased this book because the premise sounded interesting enough, and the reviews suggested that it might be something that I would like. However, I didn't get through the first two hours of the story. The narrator was okay, although I really hated how he read women's voices. It was the book itself that was such a disappointment. I absolutely hated the characters. This is often not a problem. I can listen/read a book with characters that I don't like, provided those characters are interesting and have something compelling about them. The characters in this story, however, were the most two dimensional creations that I've encountered in a long while. Furthermore, nothing happened. Actually, in the hour and a half that I listened, things did happen. But the things that happened seemed to drive the characters in only the most superficial ways. I mean, really, your 16 year old throw a fit and moves out of the house, and you shrug your shoulders? And while the characters had their petty, private obsessions, none of them seemed authentic within the story itself. I think that's my biggest complaint about this book: it is utterly lacking in authenticity. I won't bother with any more of this author's books. And I really wish I could get back my credit.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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