This book is about Patty and Walter’s marriage, but it is also about so much else; America’s involvement in Iraq, the environment, parenting, the effect of poverty on a community and individuals, etc.
Here is the blurb …
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.
This book was easy to read, however, it is quite complex. It reminded me of Middlemarch – so much going on. I’m not going to do it justice in this review, which (as is my custom) is going to be short – I’ll like to some other reviews at the end. For me this was novel was about the American condition in a post 9/11 world. This isn’t the America portrayed by Hollywood. There is no black and white only shades of grey. For example, is it OK to allow MTR (Mountain Top Removal) mining in your bird sanctuary if the miners are going to return it to a near pristine state and then the land will be off limits for future development? Walter, Patty and Richard participate in a love triangle that lasts for decades and inflicts pain on all of them.
This novel is beautifully written, the characters are true to life – messy, confused. I’ll definitely be reading more of his work.
Here are some more reviews …
http://www.abc.net.au/tv/firsttuesday/s3022839.htm (This is the First Tueday Book Club’s take on Freedom)