Freedom: A Novel Jonathan Franzen

In his book Freedom: a Novel, Jonathan Franzen has created multi layered 3-D characters that will stick with the reader long after the last word is read. Proving once again that his talent continues to shine, Franzen breathes reality into gifting the world with characters that fit the bill of everyday people. 

They could just as easily be your next door neighbors rather than people who live in a fictional world. This novel spins the tale of the Berglund family with a  focus on the characters of Patty and Walter. 

It’s a microscopic look at a love relationship and its evolvement through the years. It’s the rise and fall of expectations, the choices made and the consequences of those choices. This is a masterfully written tale weaving together the link between the outside face of key characters with their inner selves. 

There are many complex threads that tie Freedom: A Novel together. As the title suggests, one of the themes in this book is freedom. Franzen’s style suggests he is earnestly seeking freedom both as an individual and a writer. 

Indeed, much of Franzen’s work - past and present - deals with the concept of families living in the modern day twenty-first century. But make no mistake. While at first glance Freedom might be about the seemingly perfect ‘Joneses’ that we all live next door to, this novel is in fact about a dysfunctional, but loving family trying to get it right.

Another complex and interesting thread throughout Franzen’s latest work, Freedom is that of Walter and Patty’s marriage. Throughout the novel we are given a view of the marriage from a variety of characters. 

Just like in real life, we each perceive the same situation differently, so do Franzen’s beautifully rendered intricately written characters who each assign blame to a different cast member while rendering seedier characters blameless in their depictions.

However Franzen - never one to simply write about the complexity of middle class suburbanites’ lives and marriages - doesn’t avoid the challenging global issues like war, endangered species like the songbird, and serious environmental issues.  

In Freedom: A Novel, Walter who is an environmental lawyer is a perplexing character filled with true to life paradoxes who moves to Washington DC to protect the above mentioned endangered songbirds only to seemingly sell-out in an intriguing deal with a coal mining company. 

Patty the other central character in this six hundred page long saga is the alcoholic and deeply depressed wife of Walter who copes with the life she finds herself in by writing her autobiography.

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