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
"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)
This is the most honest book I have read in years! I loved it. I know a lot of the characters were not nice people but they were real, no sugar coating, just the real deal.The narration was great, story line engaging, excellent characters. This is one of my favorites.
This was pretty good and pretty well read. the main problem is with the characters. They are just not interesting enough to spend so many hours of your own life on. but the reader was good and i enjoyed it more than my wife did who struggled through the print version
Lover of ideas who feels no guilt at all about her pleasures.
If, like me, your family life is currently a source of pain, you might want to leave this book for another time. All of the silent hurts and damaging arguments fueling the story stirred up personal grievances I've long been desperate to bury. (Thanks Jonathan! )
Having to take XANAX to calm down after reading someone's work might not make that person the Great American Author - but it defitinely makes him interesting. I'll be thinking about this book for days, if not weeks to come.
A big question for me is why there's no perceptible change in voice when the narrator shifts from an omniscient third person to one of the characters and then back again? What's that supposed to mean? And who in this world chews tobacco? I have lived 50 years in the most sordid way available to me and have never once seen anyone spit tobacco into a coffee mug anywhere at any time - so what gives? Is it just a tacked on way of leveling the most elevated character? Really? I'm perplexed. I do think the overall work a little mysogynistic, despite the equalizing flaws in some male characters. But it's hard to know why I had to pop so many pills to get through Freedom. (Slow moving train wreck story arc? Suspicious characterization? Complicated narrative structure? Disappointing - who cares about her - ending? - hard to say.)
And then there's the theme: Better to be one actual thing, however awful, than a lot of potential things, none of them real. Absolutely. I'm way on board. But the book only states the case, it doesn't actually make it. So what does that mean?
On the other hand, I think the narrator was very good - don't get what people are objecting to there.
In conclusion, - I wish audible's reviewers could contact one another, because books like these should come with support groups.
PS - Steve Martin's An Object of Beauty is a much better book. Get that.
Don't you just love a great story well told?
This writer tries too hard to create serious "literature", with significant themes but ends up with a true paucity of entertainment value. The author slowly takes each character's virtues and turns them into flaws while simultaneously showing they DO have a good side. (Writing 101- "no cardboard characters allowed in "literature" so as to qualify as "good writing".)
However... there is no one to "root for" ultimately or rather there is and then everyone is shot down by their obsession with their their own values. (It didn't have to be this way... I didn't hate Holden Caufield for his feelings.)
Intelligent people already "get" that too many people are obsessed with their personal "freedoms" allowing us to wreck each others relationships and/or our environment in the name of our "freedom". Oh well. I suppose it *needed* to be written. Trust me... now you know it's"out there" you don't NEED to trudge through the mire of characters and story that make up this ostensibly "significant" book. I pity the poor student who gets this book stuck on their reading list for an American Literature class. Perhaps it will lead to lively class discussions about what makes a person turn into a jerk.
I agree wholeheartedly with other reviewers who are conflicted between the good writing but the unsympathetic characters. For the most part an entirely fulfilling book, but at many times not enjoyable, due to characters that were hard to spend time with.
The narration was very enthusiastic and engaging, however towards the middle I began to wonder if it was effecting my interpretation of the characters. Each is highly flawed, but also each has redeeming qualities; I wonder if I was reading the book if I would have perceived their subtleties better.
I am no prude, but the the amount of graphic sex was more than I needed. The story was wonderful and it made me think of political ideals, conservation and how a person is affected by all experiences in their lives. The characters were well developed and changed before my eyes. I enjoyed the book. I didn't think it dragged at all.
Freedom is amusing. Franzen captures the time, the mood and the causes well. The story, however, didn't need to meander down every scene in the 1970's, 80's, 90's and turn of the millennium. Brutal editing would have improved the tale. Still, it is worth a listen.
I typically read (listen to) non fiction but was drawn to this book by all the hype. I must say it lives up to the hype. I was riveted by the narrative and sucked in to the story. The characters, despite their frequently despicable choices, came alive for me as if they were someone I knew from the past. It helped that I'm from the upper Midwest and familiar with the different locations of the story. For lovers of fiction, I think this is must.
Loved this book!! Page turner!! Did not want to turn off my player. The author pulled you in to the characters lives and made you want to know them and know more about them. Very interesting plot. Followed these characters through their lives, through their trials and tribulations....Very much enjoyed.
Shades of Grey
One of my top five all-time favorite audible selections, this novel is a joy for the listener in every way. The narration is fabulous, the characters incredibly real and complex and the story a perfect balance between medium highs and mid-range lows lows, with nothing too tragic or stupendous, but an authentic and compelling mix of the ebbing and flowing of life. It was like eating the most satisfying meal one can imagine.
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