I read a review recently heralding Jonathan Franzen's new novel Freedom as the book of the century. Sure, we're only ten years in, but a bold statement nonetheless. Even Oprah was so impressed she couldn't resist burying the hatchet with Franzen. Rarely does a book get this much publicity. I enjoyed The Corrections quite a bit, so I was going to check Freedom out regardless, but I have to say, it more than lived up to the hype for me.
Franzen strikes me as a modern day Phillip Roth, commenting on the overall culture through the meticulous telling of one family's story. Freedom tells the story of the Berglunds, a typical American family, which is to say, there's a lot more than meets the eye. Walter and Patty Berglund are not happily married per se, but they love each other enough to keep at it. The novel is their journey to truly find one another. That journey is complicated by imperfect relationships with their two kids, and the intermittent presence of Richard, an old college friend. Franzen thoroughly develops each of these characters without passing judgement on them. He gives his readers the freedom (wink, wink) to decide how they feel about these people. Love 'em or hate 'em, they are certainly fascinating characters.
Freedom is a fairly long book, but the writing is so good, it flows, I breezed right through it. It's definitely the kind of book that I'll be thinking about for a while. I'm glad this book is getting a lot of publicity, it deserves to be read by a wide audience.