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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

Critic Reviews

"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

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.7 out of 5.0
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Performance

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
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Story

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  • Overall
  • kelly
  • hampden, ME, United States
  • 10-08-10

great listening!!

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Sublime

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Good

The subject matter isn't my cup of tea (family issues) but it moved along nicely and was well read. I liked the characters and it had a good ending and I wasn't sorry to see it end.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Unforgettable

The Berglunds and their co-conspirators are unforgettable characters, painfully drawn from bits and pieces of a suburban landscape familiar to many of our generation. Franzen weaves the chapters of his novel with such patience and skill that when one character's story stopped and another's began, I felt only momentary loss. The narrator is excellent (although I agree with the criticism of the stereotypical Indian dialect) and Franzen has created another masterpiece.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Freedom to find fault in everything

The book is engaging, I couldn't stop listening, but it leaves me with a feeling that the author believes that everything and everyone is false. Every character, and the narrator, thrives on contempt or self loathing. A great book for cynics.

The voice performance, and it is a performance, is excellent.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Ordinary book.

I do not understand what the big deal is about Jonathan Franzen. Many people are better writers than he is. I don't see why this book was on the cover of the New York Times Sunday Book Review. I didn't like it. I didn't care about the characters. I didn't find them very interesting or believable. The narrator does a very good job (my 3 stars) with uninteresting material.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

What's wrong with America?

According to Jonathan Franzen, it's freedom, the paradox of too much choice. Being a novel instead of a treatise, nobody in the book hits you over the head with the theme, which runs through all the characters' lives like a river. Great story, good narrator.

32 of 42 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Eh.

By the time the book reached its ending, I finally felt some attachment to and interest in these characters, but BOY it took a long time to get there. And along the way, there were so many episodes that just seemed pointless or not believable. The characters all seem like ciphers for the first 3/4 of the book. We are told repeatedly how intelligent the female lead is, while seeing very little in her words or actions to support this description.

It also didn't help that I LOATHED David leDoux's rendering of the female characters' voices. It made it really difficult to separate out the character from the performance, and I kept wondering whether Patty herself was so irritating, or whether it was just his interpretation that was skewing my perception.
I was surprised to learn that I had recently listened to another book that he had narrated (Water for Elephants) and I found his reading very good on that recording. So maybe it really is Franzen with whom I should find fault.

In any case, portraying a young Indian woman is well outside of LeDoux's range, and made for some really uncomfortable listening. Perhaps it might have been better to hire a female narrator for this book, given that the first-person segments are pretty much all written in a woman's voice.

So I really can't recommend this recording. As for the book? Eh.

10 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Scott
  • Moss Beach, CA, United States
  • 09-26-10

Over-hyped and a bit monolithic

A large chunk of this novel is written as a cathartic exercise at the behest of a therapist. The rest of the book similarly reads as a study in character, giving us an in depth understanding of the characters' motivations and choices as they react to a complex and troubling world. It is all about the inner voices of the main characters. You won't find much description, setting of atmosphere, or stage direction here. In that regard Franzen reminds me of Philip Roth, as opposed to such authors as Steinbeck, Chandler, or even John Irving. Roth is a touch more eloquent, and much less verbose. Any drama must have structure to be effective, and this one suffers from an excess of repetition. This reader just wanted to yell, "enough already!" several times during the reading. It would have benefited from a severe editing. You'll recognize in the characters many of the types of people you know. From that standpoint it does capture a certain slice of contemporary, dysfunctional life in America. It reminds me a lot of reality TV, and all of the reasons I don't watch it.

10 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Courtney
  • Williamstown, MA, United States
  • 10-28-10

Don't know why the Audible reviews aren't better..

I usually pick Audible books based on audiobook reviews, rather than the merits of the book alone since not all books translate well to audiobook, and the quality of the reader is very important.

I've listed to most of the top-rated audiobooks on Audible and I don't understand why Freedom doesn't have better reviews overall. This is one of the best books I've 'read' in a long time. It kicks the ass of the Steig Larsson books.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful