Freedom

Freedom

by Jonathan Franzen

Hardcover

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312600846
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 09/17/2010
Series: Oprah's Book Club Series
Pages: 576
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.90(d)

About the Author

Jonathan Franzen is the author of three novels—The Corrections, The Twenty-Seventh City, and Strong Motion—and two works of nonfiction, How to Be Alone and The Discomfort Zone, all published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He lives in New York City and Santa Cruz, California.

Hometown:

New York, New York

Date of Birth:

1959

Place of Birth:

Western Springs, Illinois

Education:

B.A., Swarthmore College, 1981; studied as a Fulbright scholar at Freie Universität in Berlin

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Agreeable

If Patty weren't an atheist, she would thank the good Lord for school athletic programs, because they basically saved her life and gave her a chance to realize herself as a person. She is especially grateful to Sandra Mosher at North Chappaqua Middle School, Elaine Carver and Jane Nagel at Horace Greeley High School, Ernie and Rose Salvatore at the Gettysburg Girls Basketball Camp, and Irene Treadwell at the University of Minnesota. It was from these wonderful coaches that Patty learned discipline, patience, focus, teamwork, and the ideals of good sportsmanship that helped make up for her morbid competitiveness and low self-esteem.

Patty grew up in Westchester County, New York. She was the oldest of four children, the other three of whom were more like what her parents had been hoping for. She was notably Larger than everybody else, also Less Unusual, also measurably Dumber. Not actually dumb but relatively dumber. She grew up to be 5'9½" which was almost the same as her brother and numerous inches taller than the others, and sometimes she wished she could have gone ahead and been six feet, since she was never going to fit into the family anyway. Being able to see the basket better and to post up in traffic and to rotate more freely on defense might have rendered her competitive streak somewhat less vicious, leading to a happier life post-college; probably not, but it was interesting to think about. By the time she got to the collegiate level, she was usually one of the shorter players on the floor, which in a funny way reminded her of her position in her family and helped keep adrenaline at peak levels.

Patty's first memory of doing a team sport with her mother watching is also one of her last. She was attending ordinary-person Sports day camp at the same complex where her two sisters were doing extraordinary-person Arts day camp, and one day her mother and sisters showed up for the late innings of a softball game. Patty was frustrated to be standing in left field while less skilled girls made errors in the infield and she waited around for somebody to hit a ball deep. She started creeping in shallower and shallower, which was how the game ended. Runners on first and second. The batter hit a bouncing ball to the grossly uncoordinated shortstop, whom Patty ran in front of so she could field the ball herself and run and tag out the lead runner and then start chasing the other runner, some sweet girl who'd probably reached first on a fielding error. Patty bore down straight at her, and the girl ran squealing into the outfield, leaving the base path for an automatic out, but Patty kept chasing her and applied the tag while the girl crumpled up and screamed with the apparently horrible pain of being lightly touched by a glove.

Patty was aware that it was not her finest hour of sportsmanship. Something had come over her because her family was watching. In the family station wagon, in an even more quavering voice than usual, her mother asked her if she had to be quite so ... aggressive. If it was necessary to be, well, to be so aggressive. Would it have hurt Patty to share the ball a little with her teammates? Patty replied that she hadn't been getting ANY balls in left field. And her mother said: "I don't mind if you play sports, but only if it's going to teach you cooperation and community-mindedness." And Patty said, "So send me to a REAL camp where I won't be the only good player! I can't cooperate with people who can't catch the ball!" And her mother said: "I'm not sure it's a good idea to be encouraging so much aggression and competition. I guess I'm not a sports fan, but I don't see the fun in defeating a person just for the sake of defeating them. Wouldn't it be much more fun to all work together to cooperatively build something?"

Patty's mother was a professional Democrat. She is even now, at the time of this writing, a state assemblywoman, the Honorable Joyce Emerson, known for her advocacy of open space, poor children, and the Arts. Paradise for Joyce is an open space where poor children can go and do Arts at state expense. Joyce was born Joyce Markowitz in Brooklyn in 1934 but apparently disliked being Jewish from the earliest dawn of consciousness. (The autobiographer wonders if one reason why Joyce's voice always trembles is from struggling so hard all her life to not sound like Brooklyn.) Joyce got a scholarship to study liberal Arts in the woods of Maine where she met Patty's exceedingly Gentile dad whom she married at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. In the autobiographer's opinion, Joyce had her first baby before she was emotionally prepared for motherhood, although the autobiographer herself perhaps ought not to cast stones in this regard. When Jack Kennedy got the Democratic nomination, in 1960, it gave Joyce a noble and stirring excuse to get out of a house that she couldn't seem to help filling up with babies. Then came civil rights, and Vietnam, and Bobby Kennedy — more good reasons to be out of a house that wasn't nearly big enough for four little kids plus a Barbadian nanny in the basement. Joyce went to her first national convention in 1968 as a delegate committed to dead Bobby. She served as county party treasurer and later chairman and organized for Teddy in 1972 and 1980. Every summer, all day long, herds of volunteers tramped in and out through the house's open doors carrying boxes of campaign gear. Patty could practice dribbling and layups for six hours straight without anybody noticing or caring.

Patty's father, Ray Emerson, was a lawyer and amateur humorist whose repertory included fart jokes and mean parodies of his children's teachers, neighbors, and friends. A torment he particularly enjoyed inflicting on Patty was mimicking the Barbadian, Eulalie, when she was just out of earshot, saying, "Stop de game now, stop de playin," etc., in a louder and louder voice until Patty ran from the dinner table in mortification and her siblings shrieked with excitement. Endless fun could also be had ridiculing Patty's coach and mentor Sandy Mosher, whom Ray liked to call Saaaandra. He was constantly asking Patty whether Saaaandra had had any gentlemen callers lately or maybe, tee hee, tee hee, some gentlelady callers? Her siblings chorused: Saaaandra, Saaaandra! Other amusing methods of tormenting Patty were to hide the family dog, Elmo, and pretend that Elmo had been euthanized while Patty was at late basketball practice. Or tease Patty about certain factual errors she'd made many years earlier — ask her how the kangaroos in Austria were doing, and whether she'd seen the latest novel by the famous contemporary writer Louisa May Alcott, and whether she still thought funguses were part of the animal kingdom. "I saw one of Patty's funguses chasing a truck the other day," her father would say. "Look, look at me, this is how Patty's fungus chases a truck."

Most nights her dad left the house again after dinner to meet with poor people he was defending in court for little or no money. He had an office across the street from the courthouse in White Plains. His free clients included Puerto Ricans, Haitians, Transvestites, and the mentally or physically Disabled. Some of them were in such bad trouble he didn't even make fun of them behind their backs. As much as possible, though, he found their troubles amusing. In tenth grade, for a school project, Patty sat in on two trials that her dad was part of. One was a case against an unemployed Yonkers man who drank too much on Puerto Rican Day, went looking for his wife's brother, intending to cut him with a knife, but couldn't find him and instead cut up a stranger in a bar. Not just her dad but the judge and even the prosecutor seemed amused by the defendant's haplessness and stupidity. They kept exchanging little not-quite winks. As if misery and disfigurement and jail time were all just a lower-class sideshow designed to perk up their otherwise boring day.

On the train ride home, Patty asked her dad whose side he was on.

"Ha, good question," he answered. "You have to understand, my client is a liar. The victim is a liar. And the bar owner is a liar. They're all liars. Of course, my client is entitled to a vigorous defense. But you have to try to serve justice, too. Sometimes the P.A. and the judge and I are working together as much as the P.A. is working with the victim or I'm working with the defendant. You've heard of our adversarial system of justice?"

"Yes."

"Well. Sometimes the P.A. and the judge and I all have the same adversary. We try to sort out the facts and avoid a miscarriage. Although don't, uh. Don't put that in your paper."

"I thought sorting out facts was what the grand jury and the jury are for."

"That's right. Put that in your paper. Trial by a jury of your peers. That's important."

"But most of your clients are innocent, right?"

"Not many of them deserve as bad a punishment as somebody's trying to give them."

"But a lot of them are completely innocent, right? Mommy says they have trouble with the language, or the police aren't careful about who they arrest, and there's prejudice against them, and lack of opportunity."

"All of that is entirely true, Pattycakes. Nevertheless, uh. Your mother can be somewhat dewy-eyed."

Patty minded his ridiculing less when her mother was the butt of it.

"I mean, you saw those people," he said to her. "Jesus Christ. El ron me puso loco."

An important fact about Ray's family was that it had a lot of money. His mom and dad lived on a big ancestral estate out in the hills of northwest New Jersey, in a pretty stone Modernist house that was supposedly designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and was hung with minor works by famous French Impressionists. Every summer, the entire Emerson clan gathered by the lake at the estate for holiday picnics which Patty mostly failed to enjoy. Her granddad, August, liked to grab his oldest granddaughter around the belly and sit her down on his bouncing thigh and get God only knows what kind of little thrill from this; he was certainly not very respectful of Patty's physical boundaries. Starting in seventh grade, she also had to play doubles with Ray and his junior partner and the partner's wife, on the grandparental clay tennis court, and be stared at by the junior partner, in her exposing tennis clothes, and feel self-conscious and confused by his ocular pawing.

Like Ray himself, her granddad had bought the right to be privately eccentric by doing good public legal works; he'd made a name for himself defending high-profile conscientious objectors and draft evaders in three wars. In his spare time, which he had much of, he grew grapes on his property and fermented them in one of his outbuildings. His "winery" was called Doe Haunch and was a major family joke. At the holiday picnics, August tottered around in flipflops and saggy swim trunks, clutching one of his crudely labeled bottles, refilling the glasses that his guests had discreetly emptied into grass or bushes. "What do you think?" he asked. "Is it good wine? Do you like it?" He was sort of like an eager boy hobbyist and sort of like a torturer intent on punishing every victim equally. Citing European custom, August believed in giving children wine, and when the young mothers were distracted with corn to shuck or competitive salads to adorn, he watered his Doe Haunch Reserve and pressed it on kids as young as three, gently holding their chins, if necessary, and pouring the mixture into their mouths, making sure it went down. "You know what that is?" he said. "That's wine." If a child then began to act strangely, he said: "What you're feeling is called being drunk. You drank too much. You're drunk." This with a disgust no less sincere for being friendly. Patty, always the oldest of the kids, observed these scenes with silent horror, leaving it to a younger sibling or cousin to sound the alarm: "Granddaddy's getting the little kids drunk!" While the mothers came running to scold August and snatch their kids away, and the fathers tittered dirtily about August's obsession with female deer hindquarters, Patty slipped into the lake and floated in its warmest shallows, letting the water stop her ears against her family.

Because here was the thing: at every picnic, back up in the kitchen of the stone house, there was always a bottle or two of fabulous old Bordeaux from August's storied cellar. This wine was put out at Patty's father's insistence, at unknown personal cost of wheedling and begging, and it was always Ray who gave the signal, the subtle nod, to his brothers and to any male friend he'd brought along, to slip away from the picnic and follow him. The men returned a few minutes later with big bubble-bowled glasses filled to the brim with an amazing red, Ray also carrying a French bottle with maybe one inch of wine left in it, to be divided among all the wives and other less favored visitors. No amount of pleading could induce August to fetch another bottle from his cellar; he offered, instead, more Doe Haunch Reserve.

And it was the same every year at Christmastime: the grandparents driving over from New Jersey in their late-model Mercedes (August traded in his old one every year or two), arriving at Ray and Joyce's overcrowded ranch house an hour before the hour that Joyce had implored them not to arrive before, and distributing insulting gifts. Joyce famously, one year, received two much-used dish towels. Ray typically got one of those big art books from the Barnes & Noble bargain table, sometimes with a $3.99 sticker still on it. The kids got little pieces of plastic Asian-made crap: tiny travel alarm clocks that didn't work, coin purses stamped with the name of a New Jersey insurance agency, frightening crude Chinese finger puppets, assorted swizzle sticks. Meanwhile, at August's alma mater, a library with his name on it was being built. Because Patty's siblings were outraged by the grandparental tightfistedness and compensated by making outrageous demands for parental Christmas booty — Joyce was up until 3 a.m. every Christmas Eve, wrapping presents selected from their endless and highly detailed Christmas lists — Patty went the other way and decided not to care about anything but sports.

Her granddad had once been a true athlete, a college track star and football tight end, which was probably where her height and reflexes came from. Ray also had played football but in Maine for a school that could barely field a team. His real game was tennis, which was the one sport Patty hated, although she was good at it. She believed that Björn Borg was secretly weak. With very few exceptions (e.g., Joe Namath) she wasn't impressed with male athletes in general. Her specialty was crushes on popular boys enough older or better-looking to be totally unrealistic choices. Being a very agreeable person, however, she went on dates with practically anybody who asked. She thought shy or unpopular boys had a hard life, and she took pity on them insofar as humanly possible. For some reason, many were wrestlers. In her experience, wrestlers were brave, taciturn, geeky, beetle-browed, polite, and not afraid of female jocks. One of them confided to her that in middle school she'd been known to him and his friends as the She-Monkey.

As far as actual sex goes, Patty's first experience of it was being raped at a party when she was seventeen by a boarding-school senior named Ethan Post. Ethan didn't do any sports except golf, but he had six inches of height and fifty pounds on Patty and provided discouraging perspectives on female muscle strength as compared to men's. What he did to Patty didn't strike her as a gray-area sort of rape. When she started fighting, she fought hard, if not too well, and only for so long, because she was drunk for one of the first times ever. She'd been feeling so wonderfully free! Very probably, in the vast swimming pool at Kim McClusky's, on a beautiful warm May night, Patty had given Ethan Post a mistaken impression. She was far too agreeable even when she wasn't drunk. In the pool, she must have been giddy with agreeability. Altogether, there was much to blame herself for. Her notions of romance were like Gilligan's Island: "as primitive as can be." They fell somewhere between Snow White and Nancy Drew. And Ethan undeniably had the arrogant look that attracted her at that point in time. He resembled the love interest from a girls' novel with sailboats on the cover. After he raped Patty, he said he was sorry "it" had been rougher than he'd meant "it" to be, he was sorry about that.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Freedom"
by .
Copyright © 2010 Jonathan Franzen.
Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

1. Jonathan Franzen refers to freedom throughout the novel, including the freedom of Iraqis to become capitalists, Joey's parents' attempt to give him an unencumbered life, an inscription on a building at Jessica's college that reads use well thy freedom, and alcoholic Mitch, who is "a free man." How do the characters spend their freedom? Is it a liberating or destructive force for them? Which characters are the least free?

2. Freedom contains almost cinematic descriptions of the characters' dwelling places, from the house in St. Paul to Abigail's eclectic Manhattan apartment. How do the homes in Freedom reflect the personalities of their occupants? Where do Walter and Patty feel most at home? Which of your homes has been most significant in your life?

3. As a young woman, Patty is phenomenally strong on the basketball court yet vulnerable in relationships, especially with her workaholic parents, her friend Eliza, and the conflicted duo of Richard and Walter. What did her rapist, Ethan Post, teach her about vulnerability? After the rape, what did her father and the coaches attempt to teach her about strength?

4. What feeds Richard and Walter's lifelong cycle of competition and collaboration? If you were Patty, would you have made the road trip with Richard? What does Freedom say about the repercussions of college, not only for Walter and Patty but also for their children?

5. How would you characterize Patty's writing? How does her storytelling style compare to the narrator's voice in the rest of the novel? If Walter had written a memoir, what might he have said about his victories, and his suffering?

6. Which tragicomic passages in Freedom made you laugh? Which characters elicited continual sadness and sympathy in you? How does Franzen balance poignant moments with absurdity?

7. Discuss the nature of attraction, both in the novel and in your own experience. What does it take to be desirable in Freedom? In the novel, how do couples sustain intense attraction for each other over many phases of their lives?

8. Does history repeat itself throughout Walter's ancestry, with his Swedish grandfather, Einar, who built roads, loathed communism and slow drivers, and was cruel to his wife; his father, Gene, a war hero with fantasies of success in the motel business; and his mother, Dorothy, whose cosmopolitan family was Walter's salvation? What do all the characters in the novel want from their parents? How do their relationships with their parents affect their relationships with lovers?

9. After her father's death, Patty asks her mother why she ignored Patty's success in sports, even though Joyce was a driven woman who might have relished her daughter's achievements. She doesn't get a satisfactory answer; Joyce vaguely says that she wasn't into sports. Why do you think Patty did not garner as much attention as her sisters did? How did your opinion of Veronica and Abigail shift throughout the novel? Does Patty treat Jessica the same way her parents treated her?

10. How is Lalitha different from the other characters in the novel? How does her motivation for working with the Cerulean Mountain Trust compare to Walter's? Does Walter relate to the cerulean warbler on some level?

11. What accounts for the differences between Joey and Jessica? Is it simply a matter of genes and temperament, or does gender matter in their situation?

12. What does Joey want and get from Jenna and Connie? What do they want and get from him?

13. Did Carol and Blake evolve as parents? What sort of life do you predict for their twin daughters?

14. Near the end of the novel, Franzen describes Walter's relationship with Bobby the cat as a sort of troubled marriage. Was their "divorce" inevitable? When Patty is eventually able to serve as neighborhood peacemaker, even negotiating a truce with Linda Hoffbauer, what does this say about her role in Walter's life? Does she dilute his sense of purpose and principle, or does she keep him grounded in reality?

15. How would you answer the essential question raised by Walter's deal with the Texas rancher Vin Haven: What is the best way to achieve environmental conservation?

16. Consider the novel's epigraph, taken from Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. The lines are spoken by Paulina in the final act, after she learns the fate of her dead husband. She receives the news while surrounded by happy endings for the other characters. The most obvious parallel is to Walter, but who else might be reflected in these lines?

17. What unique truths emerge in Freedom? In what ways does this novel enhance themes (such as love and commitment, family angst, the intensity of adolescence, and the individual against the giant—corporate, governmental, and otherwise) featured in Franzen's previous works, including his nonfiction?

Reading group guide questions written by Amy Root / Amy Root's Wordshop, Inc.

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Freedom 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2562 reviews.
Bookbabe53 More than 1 year ago
Not as great as The Corrections, but...there is something about Franzen's writing that makes it difficult for me to put it down. This story was so realistic in many ways to my experiences and those of my friends (predominately boomers), as well as our adolescent and young adult kids. He really gets family ties and the effects of depression on relationships. I felt like I knew Patty. You feel like you are right there... watching or experiencing everything, especially the effects of 9/11 on everything (I live near DC and he gets everything right about it). I would read him again and again. Recommend for book clubs.
Tammy01 More than 1 year ago
Not sure why Oprah picked this book, it was hard to read, I put it down and re-started it five times, I finally finished it, but kind of wished I would not have. Very boring, self serving story about a not so normal family. I would not reccomend this to anyone, sorry Oprah. If you are looking for a good read, try Unconditional. It is well written story, with well developed characters. The plot twist and ending will certainly surprise you, and I guarantee that you wont put it down until you reach the end.
SHARON39 More than 1 year ago
FREEDOM is the story of our time, our concerns. Beautifully written, this amazing novel has a lot of entertaining satire, witty metaphors, deep insights, and a smattering of politics, (all sides). He works in what makes people tick, self-awareness and growth.human nature. The baby boomer generation, in search of the almighty self-gratification, apparently, have destroyed a great deal of the world's natural resources with no thought at all of the consequences. Strong ideas and obsessions shape people so much so that they can ruin their lives and others. Political prejudices prevent people from making friends and being genuine. Perception blinds the world's people to the world as it really is. This is a very human, realistic, painfully so, story of a couple and their friends that is totally believable, as if a true life biography. There is no Fairy Tale here. Interestingly thought-provoking! Isn't it a shame that we all can't just BE NICE? Why does that have to be so hard? Respect? Why does that have to be so hard? I recommend this to the reader who has an open mind and is capable of understanding the author's intention.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you want instant gratification this isn't the book for you. Franzen is a master manipulator who steals your freedom and shackles you--both vicariously, through the repressions, obligations, confoundedness and slavish desires of his own characters--and literally, with pages and pages of relentless social, environmental, and political diatribes. It's like being tied to a chair and ideologically pistol-whipped. He baits you with "will they or won't they" sexual tensions, and then sets the hook deeper and deeper with end-of-chapter cliff hangers. Then, round about page 435 (ereader edition) he gives you your first taste of freedom--a heady, wondrous taste of freedom. Through self-discovery and self-understanding and unconditional love some bit of redemption is had. This is ultimately not an intellectual book but an experiential one and you won't experience its substantial joys and rewards until you pay the price. Freedom, apparently, ain't free. I was astonished to find, after disliking many aspects of this book and feeling uninvested in the characters emotionally throughout most of it, myself weeping at the end. It really is masterful in a very unexpected way and I think that's why the critics are in a tizzy. Perhaps it doesn't exactly have something new to say, but it has a new way of saying it. It has a new way of making you feel it that doesn't pander or sentimentalize. In a unique way it gets to the heart of something honest and real about humanity and the world in the new millennium.
TheReadingWriter More than 1 year ago
A big book, in every sense. The whole of America is wrapped in its pages--a close, funny, irreverent look at "the way we live now." Funny and tragic at the same time, Freedom is a comedy of manners that can enter the literary canon as a marker for America early in the 21st century, just as the novels of Henry James and Edith Wharton gave us the motivations and beliefs of Americans in the early 20th. What I understood the author was saying is that we have so much freedom to create our own lives and make our choices, but sometimes that freedom is as much of a burden as not having freedom. And that perhaps with all our freedom, our choices are less than laudable, and feel more like mistakes. Maybe we're not doing such a bang-up job of making good citizens despite our unprecedented learning and wealth. We may have an inkling of what we ought to do, but we never seem to choose that particular option. Franzen has the young ones of the Berglund family, Jessica and Joey, looking with dismay at the choices their parents have made, but it is just a matter of time-they have had less time to make their own choices-and mistakes. No one political party comes off looking attractive after Franzen lays waste to their point of view, showing the absurdity of the rhetoric spewing from all sides. But the author clearly believes we have a responsibility to do the moral thing--a thing we already know but "choose" not to do. It is a human failing, but in this book, it has a particularly American flavor. The book was frustrating and irritating to begin, for I felt much impatience with the long discussion of Patty's college years. I can attest to the kind of naiveté Patty exhibited in high school with her neighbor boy and in college with her stalker girl, but as an adult, the painful examination of old mistakes and errors in judgment felt like a reliving old wounds. The narrative and my sense of involvement changed, however, when Richard was introduced. The scene where Patty changes her interest from Walter to Richard felt all too real. Which one of us has not experienced the pain and humiliation of a potential lover lusting after our best friend? From whichever angle--the foolish luster, the cool lusted-after, or the poorly-done-by loser, it is an oft-played, excruciatingly painful memory, and when Franzen brought us there, he got my attention. From that point on, we regularly and ruefully see ourselves, our friends, our enemies, our families struggling to gain control of our lives, make decisions, and then overcome the results of poor decisions. With all the freedom we have to choose any direction, we often choose a wrong direction, the author seems to be saying. Judging from the recognition with which I read the novel, I've been there more times than I care to admit.
Willeo More than 1 year ago
As much as I enjoyed reading this Author's previous novel, "The Corrections", I found it to be pretty difficult to like any of the characters by the end of the book. In the end, I respected the work and the talents of the author, but the dysfunctionality of the family left me thinking that "the Corrections was not a book that I would read for fun. I could not feel any more differently about this work. Just as in his previous novel, Franzen manages here to write about real life and regular people in a way that is so transparent and relatable that you could give this book to a person in 30 years and they would know what it was like to live in the first decade of the 21st century. The characters are complex and for all their faults ultimately redeemable. This was one of those books that I was sad to finish because I wanted to keep in touch with these characters and follow their lives even further.
Voracious_ReaderNY More than 1 year ago
I was persuaded to read this book after all of the hype - cover of Time magazine, multiple radio interviews, etc. I did finish it - and it was somewhat interesting, but there was nothing to feel passionate about. It seemed like the author looked around and asked himself: "What are the hot topics that should be included?" and then found a way to insert them into the plot line. I found his style of writing difficult to get used to, as the chapters droned on and on, with no natural breaks where I could put it down. I finally had to just arbitrarily stop in the middle of a scene. Ultimately, I did not care about what happened to any of the people in this book, and it was a relief to end it. I usually trade books with friends, but this is one book that I will not inflict on others. I do not recommend this book.
sweetkitten More than 1 year ago
How did this make it to Oprah's list. The sample looked good, so I bought it. Up until about page 137 it is fine, I was really relating to the characters, then it drones on and on with the writer expressing his thoughts. The spell is broken . I do not think will finish this one,
opbitty More than 1 year ago
Highly recommend Jonathan Franzen's latest novel "Freedom"! He weaves the age-old story of marital dissatisfaction & infidelity into other moral "dilemmas" that are so current as to be seen in today's media. But most of all it is his insight into the human psyche that makes him one of the most readable of contemporary novelists.
PRD More than 1 year ago
I really wanted to like this novel, and I guess I can't say it was horrible, because I ended up reading all 500+ pages. But. it seems a pity that Franzen spent so much effort and time to come up with characters and a story that are, in the end, so inconsequential. I also thought his use of adjectives was sometimes silly. Phrases like "impossibly pale skin," "insanely beautiful hair," "ridiculously delicious smell" and such made me wince. The environmental issues felt stuck-in, forced, awkward. And why does everybody "f**k?" No one once "made love" or "had sex." I'll have to re-read The Corrections and see if I can figure out why I thought it was so much better.
skimSC More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was very well written and enjoyed reading it, but it is not a lively read. There is not much humor or levity in the book. The characters are well-developed. I did have empathy for them despite their flaws and believe that the book was about redemption in this sense. I'm glad I read it but was glad when I finished it and could leave them behind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I do not understand how this book has received so much hype. It was depressing. I found none of the characters had any redeeming qualities. I don't mind sex in a book, but when, what you are reading was on the big screen it would be considered porn, it becomes unnecessary. Like a movie with the F word sprinkled liberally throughout just for shock value. I always wonder how horny these authors are that do this.
anonymous88KB More than 1 year ago
I am really surprised by some of the negative reviews of this novel. While it could be kind of dark and even brought me to tears a couple of times, it is one of a couple fo novels I have read lately that have renewed my belief in great modern literature that uses current issues and problems to create a believable and absorbing story. Wonderful!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Might I suggest another? It's call "When God Stopped Keeping Score" by R.A. Clark. Good book with a timely message.
readaRL More than 1 year ago
Clearly a mistake to have spent the time to read this self-absorbed writers story of her pitiful life, by a MAN ? Written in annoying autobiographical manner and about nothing important at all. Could not finish after 180 pages of waiting for something meaningful to be said. Absolutely would not recommend.
jhbb More than 1 year ago
Please do not waste your time on this book. The characters are shallow, self-centered and above all boring. It shows a very unlikeable Patty, who really has no redeeming value. We share our book's but this is one I ditched as I was to embarrassed to let the group know I had read it. Save yourself the time and money and pick another book. There are so many books that will serve you better for a good read.
MandyM More than 1 year ago
This was a big disappointment, before I even knew about Oprah's recommendation. The writing style is annoying. It's a slew of facts which are suppeosed to lead to the character development. Patty wasn't compelling to me at all. I kept trying to read it because it was supposed to be fabulous. When it was over, I realized that the hyped up books are just that.
SnowMore More than 1 year ago
This is simply the best novel by a contemprary author that I've read. Amazingly real characters -- both major and minor; important themes; the obligatory hilarity and heartbreak, exceptionally well executed -- nary a word awry. It's for an about liberal "elites", so if you're a tea-partier, you might as well look elsewhere. All others, buy, read, enjoy and admire.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a forum to review books. If you wish to communicate with each other go to a social media site like facebook. B&N sells books. These reviews are important to those of us who wish to buy books. But your coded dialogs are annoying and at times rather vulgar. I hope B&N finds a way to block and ban you from here.
vegaskate More than 1 year ago
Franzen's prose is masterful and his voice is unique but i need more to capture my interest. I had no one to root for. Flawed characters were authentic, yet totally unlikable. I just didn't care about the outcome of their lives or petty struggles. I had no impulse to keep turning the page. I had to force myself to finish.
Idnac More than 1 year ago
This was a well written book with a story line developed around some very complex characters. As with all characters, there are going to be some that you relate to which makes them easy to read about, and some that you struggle understanding which in turn makes it more difficult to read through the pages. Some of the reviews on here have said this book was boring and difficult to read. I think that this goes back to relating to characters and not trying to understand from each of their perspectives as the author intended. I thought this was an easy read! I am excited to read more from this author, as this was my first experience with his work.
GailCooke More than 1 year ago
Well remembered for his masterful readings of such titles as "Water For Elephants" and "The Second Horseman," David Ledoux gives a praiseworthy narration of FREEDOM, a story in which he's required to portray many characters. As has been said, "His voice inhabits the characters' psyches, sharing their loves, fears, and anxieties. Ledoux gives a vibrant performance, imbuing each character with a unique voice and tone." How true! The winner of two AudioFile Earphones Awards Ledoux presents listeners with a varied cast of characters, each very different, each intriguing in his or her own way. FREEDOM is 25 hours of pure listening pleasure. However, one cannot say the story is always pure pleasure but rather thought provoking, a mini look at our shared history as it highlights Patty and Walter Berglund, a once perfect couple now trying to come to terms with a very changed world. The pair have renovated an old home among other badly in need of repair homes in Ramsey Hill, a section of St. Paul. Patty is the sunshine in their neighborhood, "a sunny carrier of sociological pollen, an affable bee," always busy doing good - sharing a platter of cookies, bringing a small bouquet of flowers. Walter is her perfect companion, a lawyer so decent, so honest that he almost glows with good will, philanthropy, and a commitment to the environment (he commutes by bicycle each day). Yet, is it not possible that the Berglunds are uncomfortable with their good fortune, somehow trying to deserve their gifts? Also, is it not possible that such meritorious devotion to the good might later manifest itself as overwrought zeal? Their idyllic life begins to shatter when their bright, doted upon son, Joey, leaves home to live with a neighbor described as one wearing "a Vikings jersey with his work boots unlaced and a beer can in his fist." The author takes us through the years with the Berglunds as each ages, remembering the pasts that formed them, questioning what they believed to be true, and becoming increasingly confounded by the time in which they now live. They change, remarkably so, as has our world. Jonathan Franzen is brilliant and FREEDOM is not to be forgotten. - Gail Cooke
UWSideReader More than 1 year ago
Change and self-awareness are elusive, fickle and hard won through J Franzen's ability to convincingly change viewpoints, voices and settings and timelines. As in The Corrections, human failings are reinterpreted with wry humor and a well-developed cast of characters, with varying self-insight. I enjoy Franzen's ability to play off political events, social causes and well described places. Freedom, it seems, is the journey through time and not set through a singular adolescent declaration or draw.
Mr6Sigma More than 1 year ago
I must admit most of my reading consists of non-fiction, primarily politics, finance and economics. I had read a weird article in the LA Times opinion section about this book (now I realize it was a parody) and had heard smatterings about the author and the book. When I saw it at B&N I decided to give it a read. Well, I'm at page 80. I look at the book sitting on the table, it looks back at me. Should I continue to read it as my compulsive nature directs me to do? Should I donate it to the library so it can torture some other poor soul? Should I burn it? Time will tell.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Terrible