Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm sure there are zillions of things wrong with Franzen and this book, but I don't care if it's trying to be the great American novel or not. I enjoyed it thoroughly and recommend it highly. However, if you hate Franzen, why torture yourself? Just acknowledge that you hate the book and don't bother reading it.
I'd hate to be the guy people put so much heat on. I think he's just a writer who tries to express himself. But he doesn't need my approval to keep writing. At least I hope he doesn't!
I liked Freedom because I cared about the characters. They were all flawed, but he spent enough time to make us care about them as we'd care about anyone we knew that much about. I think that's what Franzen does best, and it's a skill I don't think you can pick up. Either you care enough to deeply observe and report what you think makes people tick--or you don't. If more writers could follow his lead, I'd be a happier reader.
There are plenty of reviews detailing the plot of the book, but I'll give it a quick summary. The main characters are Walter and Patty Berglund, who meet in Minnesota during college. Their friends and family and co-workers get drawn into the book as time passes, and by the end almost 30 years have zipped by.
I thought the book was pretty light hearted in some ways, even though a lot of bad things happen. But the characters have some inner gumption that keeps them going for the most part. Maybe that's why people tag it as the great American novel. We have a tendency to keep striving and trying to better ourselves and the world. At least we used to, but that's a topic for another day.
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