by Jonathan Franzen

Gail Reid: Freedom by Jonathan franzen is a big, bold and astute novel of a contemporary liberal family and their painful demise. Patty and Walter Berglund, a midwestern liberal couple from different regions and backgrounds, meet during college and are anchored by their mutual friendship with Richard Katz, a budding rock musician. Over a twenty year marriage, their friendship with Katz waxes and wanes; and their relationship with their teenage son deteriorates to the point that he moves in with his girlfriend's family who are political and social opposites.

It is not the uniqueness of the story that holds us captive but rather the degree to which we become embroiled by the details of the Berglunds' lives. We experience the excruciating repercussions of bad decisions and watch the intimate details of lives unraveling. I would have to agree with one of the other reviewers that there is not a likeable character in this 600 page book but that should not detract from the fact that all of us know people with some or all of these characteristics and they play an integral part in our lives. In addition to creating unlikeable characters with significant depth, the author has a way with dialog that reflects the nuance of contemporary life.

I was not surprised to learn that it took Jonathan Franzen 9 years to write this book. In another decade, I wlll have recovered from this one and be ready for the next.
Rating: *****

Teresa Joel: WARNING: If you want to feel bad about life and mankind, read this book. I had to force myself to finish Freedom because I disliked it so much. I do not understand how this book has received so many kudos in the media! I found the characters unlikeable, the plot ludicrous , and the time spent reading it was, in my opinion, wasted. There is not one iota of redeeming value in the book. I only rate Freedom a 1 because the author obviously spent alot of time writing it, although why, I cannot fathom.
Rating: *

Gwendolyn Waring: I did not enjoy this book. Although I loved the Corrections I did not understand how an author can make none of the characters of a book likeable. I did not care what happened to any of them as a result. I was annoyed that Franzen insisted upon beating the reader over the head with his cause celebre. I was very disappointed.
Rating: **

Anne Ferber: I loved this book. Not only does it describe the complex issues involved in family relationships, it also describes the first decade of this century in amazing detail. The liberal yuppy couple gentrifying a neighborhood pitted against a "tea party" Republican family next door, whose children become involved, the lure of "bad boy" attractiveness compared to the dependable devotion of one's partner, and, generally the environmental and political issues of the day are all brought to the fore and used as a metric through which the characters are constantly evaluating their own self worth. Another constant theme is the interplay of parent-child relationships and their effects on both generations.

The writing seems to simply ring true, and although you may not always find the characters likable, you certainly care what happens to them and root for them to find satisfying outcomes.
Rating: *****

Arlene Almas: "Freedom" is excellent, dazzling. The narrative, characters, and dialogue are so real that the book's world is our world. The story follows Patty and Walter Berglund through their youth, young adulthood, and middle age, along with the third person in their constantly evolving relationship: Richard Katz, a rock star and Walter's long-time best friend, has a mutual attraction towards Patty but is fiercely loyal to Walter. The story moves easily into the past to reveal Patty's childhood and college years and her parents' eccentricities. Returning to the present, Patty and Walter's son Joey and his story come to the forefront in some sections, as he develops from a rebellious, willful boy into a mensch. I cannot recommend "Freedom" too highly - I rate it 5+!
Rating: *****

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