…by Jonathan Franzen.
Meet the Berglunds. They are a middle-class American family living in St. Paul, Minnesota. The book follows their lives through the last few years of the 90s to the beginning of the Obama administration. Patty Berglund is the unusually pretty home-maker and lives with her husband Walter who is a lawyer and later, an environmentalist, and children Jessica and Joey. Despite Patty’s best intentions, Joey gets involved with their neighbour’s daughter Connie causing him to rebel against his own parents and move out at 16 to live with Connie, her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. Patty becomes emotionally unstable as does Walter in trying to deal with the situation and eventually, they move to Washington where Walter finds an environmental project and a possible protegee, Lalitha. As Patty reminisces the past in the form of an autobiography including how she met Walter while being attracted to his dark best friend, Richard Katz, we get an understanding of how the Berglunds get to where they currently are. As the years go on, Patty continues to be attracted to Richard and cracks begin to appear in her marriage to Walter. At the same time, Joey and Connie’s relationship becomes confusing as Joey starts college and while wanting out, continues to be pulled back to his comfort zone.
Freedom is a family saga tackling issues about family, friendship, love, loyalty, mental health and the world we live in. It is a book that spans a whopping 550 plus pages but at the same time, is an easy read. It is more of a character analysis with the above issues than about the plot itself. Franzen gets into the heads of all characters and makes them human and interesting. Almost every character suffers from mental health problems particularly depression. The over-arching theme of course, is about freedom. Are we really as free as we think we are? How much do we living in a ‘free’ world, abuse our freedom? And what is freedom anyway?
I loved the book just as I loved Franzen’s The Corrections. I’m a fan of his character analysis and often cynical but bird’s eye view into human beings. In some ways, it also reminds me of Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy which I loved. I tend to like books that delve into characters and themes around mental health and family and well, society in general. Like I said though, it is a huge book. But one that I would still highly recommend.
Where to buy the book:
***This book has been reviewed as part of the Off the Shelf Challenge***
Until next time,