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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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  •  
    Tim Berkeley, CA, United States 11-20-10
    Tim Berkeley, CA, United States 11-20-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    23
    ratings
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    3
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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 11-20-10
    Elle 11-20-10

    Easy to Please

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    10
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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
  •  
    Gayle Saint Paul, MN, United States 11-14-10
    Gayle Saint Paul, MN, United States 11-14-10 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
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    10
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    "Strong Start, Compelling Middle and...."

    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.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donna 11-14-10
    Donna 11-14-10
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    1
    Overall
    "Sad, Self-Absorbed, Miserable..."

    And I mean the book's characters. If you want to spend hours pulled into a quagmire of depressive dribble about every one of the characters, this is the book for you!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marius Gladstone, United States Minor Outlying Islands 11-13-10
    Marius Gladstone, United States Minor Outlying Islands 11-13-10 Member Since 2014
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    199
    1
    Overall
    "Trashy soporific soap opera"

    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.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margaret Mt Pleasant, SC, United States 11-08-10
    Margaret Mt Pleasant, SC, United States 11-08-10 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    10
    4
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    "Not a Great Listen"

    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?

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    StevoDude 11-08-10
    StevoDude 11-08-10 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
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    102
    5
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    "Don't believe the hype!"

    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...

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jody N Syracuse, NY, United States 11-07-10
    Jody N Syracuse, NY, United States 11-07-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    6
    3
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    "I liked it but....."

    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.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Danelle Port Matilda, PA, United States 11-07-10
    Danelle Port Matilda, PA, United States 11-07-10 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    25
    4
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    0
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    "Couldn't wait for it to end..."

    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!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Terry L. O'Donovan San Diego, California 11-05-10
    Terry L. O'Donovan San Diego, California 11-05-10 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    129
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    "Boring story"

    I am surprised by the hype for this book. I found the characters shallow and the story boring. I just did not get the point.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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