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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 (3489 )
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  •  
    Amanda Lape-Freeberg 12-03-10 Member Since 2007
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    12
    2
    Overall
    "Belly-button gazing"

    I was intrigued by the sample for this book, I wanted to get to know the characters presented in that snippet. However, what interested me about the presented ways of one of the main characters never reappeared, it was a cleaver but not truly representative description. I did listen to the whole book, but at times I wondered why. These people were so self-absorbed, so selfish, so non-reflective about themselves, expect in the most painstakingly situational way that I wanted to shake them. I know enough people who can't get out of their own way, I don't want to spend my leisure time stuck listening to them as well. Not much here, if you want to understand what makes us most profoundly human.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Douglas Encinitas, CA, United States 12-03-10
    Douglas Encinitas, CA, United States 12-03-10 Member Since 2001
    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
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    "awful"

    Dry, boring and worst of all...irrelavant. Narrator does his best but so little to work with.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mamasunset California Central Coast 11-26-10
    mamasunset California Central Coast 11-26-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
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    460
    13
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    "My Eyes Glaze Over"

    Reading these reviews of Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom a Novel" certainly proves the old maxim "do not argue over matters of taste." I hesitate to post my review, as I don't really have the right to review a book I did not finish. However, as I grow older I find my time is too valuable and life too short to bother with books I hate so vehemently, and I feel I must spare some innocent Audible fan so many hours of pain and boredom. In a nutshell: I hated the characters, didn't care anything about them, and very, very strongly disliked the narrator. b e w a r e

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L. Hockensmith Yorba Linda 11-26-10
    L. Hockensmith Yorba Linda 11-26-10 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    46
    ratings
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    42
    28
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    3
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    Overall
    "So... What's the Point?"

    The book was kind of interesting at first. That is, in the character it created. However, after a couple chapters I began to ask myself, "What's the point."

    I guess if one likes to peer into the fictional lives of others, it might be interesting. I have never been one to appreciate gossip, especially when it is made-up gossip.

    There was no learning or inspiration with this novel. It was just a bunch of fictional dirt about fictional lives.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bennett Fairfax, VA, United States 11-23-10
    Bennett Fairfax, VA, United States 11-23-10 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
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    70
    6
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    0
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    "Almost the Worst"

    I generaly agree with Oprah's choices but I don't know what happened to this one. I kept reading because I thought it would get better. It never did. An entire family of self-involved weirdos. Who knew! Don't waste your points.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christine SHERWOOD, OR, United States 11-23-10
    Christine SHERWOOD, OR, United States 11-23-10 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
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    3
    3
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    "Freedom- DONT DO IT!"

    The worst book I have downloaded yet! The reader is nasaly and the book has no plot, nothing likeable about the characters, not believable. I think it's very difficult for a male author to take on a woman's perspective. Got through the half of part I and cannot continue- big fat DELETE!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lawrence Charlottesville, VA, United States 11-21-10
    Lawrence Charlottesville, VA, United States 11-21-10 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    26
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    85
    15
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    3
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    Overall
    "Gave up"

    I only made it 1/4 through. Just didn't care enough for the main character (Patty) to tolerate her self-indulgence and dysfunction. And something about the narrator's snide tone started to become intolerable. I tried to stick out out, but the benefits were repeatedly exceeded by the displeasure.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tamara Los Angeles, CA, United States 11-21-10
    Tamara Los Angeles, CA, United States 11-21-10 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    43
    2
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    0
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    Overall
    "Don't believe the hype...seriously!"

    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. ;)

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim Berkeley, CA, United States 11-20-10
    Tim Berkeley, CA, United States 11-20-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    23
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    25
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    "worthwhile, but grit your teeth"

    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.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elle United States 11-20-10
    Elle United States 11-20-10 Member Since 2007

    Easy to Please

    HELPFUL VOTES
    84
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    18
    9
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    6
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    "Freedom from mediocrity"

    This book is mediocre--the plot, the writing, the characters. Some PR firm, however, obviously has done a fantastic job!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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