Freedom, or the Idea of it

A review on Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

This book was a departure for me. I was commenting on it when a customer was purchasing The Corrections by the the same author. We were talking about Oprah’s Book Club, and she suggested Freedom. Thankfully, with my job, I was able to pick it up at a good price.

My life right now with work allows me to devote an hour of morning time to reading as well as half an our each evening. For two straight weeks, I read this book for an hour and a half each day. You all know I’m a fast reader, but it took all of that time to read this book. The subject material is heavy. The book follows a family in suburban America dealing with all the sadness that come with choosing to settle for what is available, instead of going for what you want. And that means everything: romance, politics, dreams, family.

The characters in this book are all terribly flawed and aware, but are not willing to admit their flaws and unhappiness to each other. And so we descend into a terrible sort of codependency that encompasses the whole plot. Somehow, though, I still wanted to know how each character would end their story. I liked each character for some reasons and disliked them for others. And when the characters are, essentially, “set free,” their stories aren’t finished. The nice thing that Franzen does is complete the story. He doesn’t leave you hanging any sort of way. There is a feeling that, somehow, with all the sadness and life we’ve been through, there is an acceptable ending.

The trouble I had with the book was the political drive that Walter had. I understood his cause, but I couldn’t relate to anyone who so fiercely defended his political beliefs. But I think he is so devoted because he never fully fulfilled his life goals. He even worked against them at some points in his life to make his wife happy. There is a lot of resentment stirring in this book, and that’s just one example of it.

Finishing this book was an accomplishment for me. There was a time when I would have abandoned the book altogether for a more “enjoyable” read. But I found that I wasn’t reading an hour and a half everyday just to finish it, but because I wanted to read it. I was drawn to the characters. I was drawn to the story, and I really wanted to understand what was happening. I feel proud of myself. And I would recommend this book to anyone who has lived through this capitalist American dream, and is living through the failure of it right now. Nobody’s perfect. Everyone has feelings. And this book gives a little bit of insight and a lot of voice to America right now.

I will be reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins next. I have downloaded the first onto my nook. And I am excited to read this much recommended book.

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