Freedom

The Corrections

by Jonathan Franzen

Anne Ferber: After reading Freedom by this author, I felt that I had neglected the real masterpiece 9 years before, and so I decided to make amends. And YES, I was correct, Freedom was the icing, but this is the REAL CAKE.

This book is not pretty, not even for an instant, but for anyone who has aging parents, and/or siblings, this is the most compelling read I have come across in my adult life.

Enid and Alfred Lambert are senior citizens of the mid west who have lived fruitful and opinionated lives and now in retirement, are feeling the setbacks and disadvantages of operating in a lonely world of changing values. Enid, especially, lives in the world of her imagination, where her Parkinson's tremoring, demented husband will regain his health "with a little exercise" and the children will get along if they just got together for Christmas. Their three children have all grown and moved to the east coast, dealing, with varying degrees of success and failure, within their own life choices, and more or less keeping in contact with each other, which is how the plot moves along.

Each child, Chip, Gary and Denise is given a novella sized chapter describing events from the time they left home and leading up to a Christmas gathering that no one really wants, but Enid, through cajoling and guilt inducing pleading, somehow manages to bring about.

The stories are heart-breaking and gut wrenching. The writing is so compelling, that I found myself feeling their depression and wonderment, and yet noticing that the life choices they were making for themselves could perhaps have been modified. But,who knows, maybe not.

At one point, and as a kind of breakthrough, Chip looks at his life as a "tragedy rewritten as a farce" and this could well describe all the events described here. The truth of the matter is that through all the pain and miscommunication herein, hope is always available if you can see tomorrow, and are lucky enough to keep your body and mind in tact.
Rating: *****

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