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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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By R. Spangler on 12-13-10
Enjoyable book. Really liked the narration.
I am a non-fiction guy. I read (listen to) a lot of business books, history books and opinion based on fact (!) books, so it was rather odd that I purchased this nove. I had seen a very glowing review of it in National Review, so it caught my interest. I had just finished Ayn Rand's 51 hour epic, Atlas Shrugged, so I wasn't sure I was up for another stemwinder.
Some of the reviews of this audiobook disparaged David LeDoux's reading of it, especially his rendition of Lalitha, the Bengali girlfriend of Walter. Her voice was a bit contrived, but it was actually not a bad version of a man's Indian accent (albeit a man with a tenor voice.) Seriously, I thought his manner of speaking was soooooooo totally well-done. Some narrators just speak the words, others attempt to bring life to the words while not attempting to actually sound like the character, but LeDoux does it all and it really helped me make it through a 24 hour book.
Rather than review the substance of the book, which has already been well covered, I wanted to comment on the form. As an audiobook, I found it a bit tough to follow the timeline as well as some of the characters of the novel. Franzen's use of time shifting, sometimes in remembrances, sometimes in just seemingly random storyline movements were confusing to this listener. Also, in one chapter near the end when Patty was dealing with her family, the names became almost overwhelming to place without having a visual marker by which to sort them, but such is a hazard of audiobooks.
My hearty recommendation is to get this book. Don't be swayed by a few naysayers about the narration. Plus when you are done with it, you will feel soooooooo much better about your own situation in life. Reeeeally...
26 of 26 people found this review helpful
By Annie M. on 09-17-10
Brilliant writing, difficult to like
I couldn't wait for Jonathan Franzen's new book to come out. And I have to say...I kinda sorta hated it. And I liked it. A lot. I did not, however, LOVE it.
I like difficult books with difficult characters. But, with the exception of one or two characters, this is a book filled with intensely selfish, deeply unlikeable people. Would that I could create characters so clearly defined! I mean, Franzen is brilliant in this regard. You know EXACTLY who these people are...and you would never want to invite them to dinner.
I had to struggle to get through it. I'm conflicted. Great writing, great story line. But really hard people to spend time with.
I will say, the ending was very satisfying, so I'm glad I hung in there. Getting to the final sentences, though, was a struggle for this voracious reader of comtemporary and classic literature.
122 of 131 people found this review helpful