Thursday, November 21, 2013

Book 16: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

I picked up a copy of Freedom at my local indie bookstore in early June. I had heard good things about the novel, though I'd never read any of Franzen's work before. In fairness it was a purchase born out of weakness: I had just gone through a big breakup and this line from the cover copy felt like it was written for me: "It is a story about the human heart, and what it leads us to do to ourselves and each other."

I began reading as soon as I got home and finished it in only a few days. Every time I sat down to read, I had to plan on reading 50 to 100 pages, because once I committed to reading "for a bit" I would become completely engrossed in the story. I found it difficult to come up for air once I had begun.

The novel tells the story of the Berglund family: Walter, Patty, Joey and Jessica and their assorted romantic and political interests over the course of several years. It is a dense book, filled with ideas and more politics than I care for, but at the center of it there are characters that you can't help but relate to.

Through all of the passages about birds and the Iraq war, the thing that kept me turning the pages were the characters. They were so well drawn and interesting that I had to find out what would happen to them. That's not to say that the book is overrun with dull passages, only that when I hit a section that ordinarily would have made me put the book down for a bit, I was compelled to continue reading anyway.

Having finished this book, I wanted to jump in and read more of Franzen's work, which is how I happened to be in the middle of The Corrections when he went on his latest rant against Twitter. But more on that later. 

For now, just take my recommendation: Freedom is a great book with really interesting characters. It'll feel like a quick read because you won't be able to put it down until you get to the last page.

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