Wednesday, September 28, 2011

FREEDOM by Jonathan Franzen


I've always thought that good writing makes a book better but not necessarily good. In this case, however, I didn't find the story or the characters particularly compelling, but I kept reading to see what other tricks of the written word Franzen had up his sleeve. The first chapter hooked me completely, and, after that, there were just enough LOL moments to make it worthwhile. Patty and Walter Bergland live in a gentrified neighborhood in St. Paul with their perfect daughter, Jessica, and perfect son, Joey—both teenagers. Well, Joey is perfect up until the moment he decides to move in with his girlfriend, Connie, who lives with her mom and her mom's boyfriend. This event rocks Patty's world, and then we read her therapeutic autobiography, which, I might add, eventually falls into the wrong hands. Patty, a former college basketball star, is self-indulgent and depressed, not to mention unfaithful to her saint of a husband. She's always had a thing for Richard, Walter's former roommate, but it was difficult for me to see what either man found attractive in her. Some sections of the book I found to be just too wearing, particularly the coverage of Patty's relationship with the self-destructive Eliza. Walter's life is infinitely more interesting, as he becomes involved with a coal mining operation in order to reclaim the land eventually for a bird sanctuary—or something like that. His favorite cause, though, is zero population growth, and Walter fires shots at the Pope, even while contemplating making a baby with his young assistant, Lalitha. In one particularly amusing scene, Walter, Lalitha, and Jessica are brainstorming to come up with a name for their ZPG group, and Franzen's list of options is a scream. My favorite is "All Children Left Behind." Franzen makes the point that people love America for either money or freedom, and anyone who doesn't have money is more likely to relish various personal freedoms, even if they're harmful to the planet.

3 comments:

M.E. said...

Thanks for sharing your likes and dislikes of this book. Sounds like an entertaining ride, if you don't mind reading about relationship drama.

Patti's Pages said...

Yes, and I enjoy family drama, but at 560 pages, this is almost too much of a good thing.

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