Freedom: A Novel

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Aug 31, 2010 - Fiction - 576 pages

Patty and Walter Berglund were the new pioneers of old St. Paul—the gentrifiers, the hands-on parents, the avant-garde of the Whole Foods generation. Patty was the ideal sort of neighbor, who could tell you where to recycle your batteries and how to get the local cops to actually do their job. She was an enviably perfect mother and the wife of Walter's dreams. Together with Walter—environmental lawyer, commuter cyclist, total family man—she was doing her small part to build a better world.

But now, in the new millennium, the Berglunds have become a mystery. Why has their teenage son moved in with the aggressively Republican family next door? Why has Walter taken a job working with Big Coal? What exactly is Richard Katz—outré rocker and Walter's college best friend and rival—still doing in the picture? Most of all, what has happened to Patty? Why has the bright star of Barrier Street become "a very different kind of neighbor," an implacable Fury coming unhinged before the street's attentive eyes?

In his first novel since The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen has given us an epic of contemporary love and marriage. Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom's characters as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time.


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Q. How did you like the book?
A. Very interesting. Interesting characters, situations, well written. It's long, over 500 pages, but worth every minute of your time.
Q. Anything stand out, as being different from other novels?
A. Well, it's a saga, of a sort, but I've read many sagas. That means that we meet the protagonist, in this case both of the Berglunds are main characters, then we meet their children, then their parents and a little about their grandparents. We meet their friends, from when they were in college and thereafter. We see how they progress through most of their adult lives. Their kids grow up and start their own families. Their parents die or need extra care. Their siblings lead their own lives, some making names for themselves, others not. We experience the ups and downs of the marriage between Patty and Walter, the coming of age of Joey, the son. Rick Katz is an important figure in their lives. He's a musician who roomed with Walter in college and tends to be promiscuous. But he loves (so it is said) both of the Berglunds, for their own peculiar capabilities and needs. Walter gets interested in conservation and makes a career of it. He discovers the dark underside of the political game here, and suffers a real tragedy. It's all very absorbing.
Q. So you can recommend the book?
A. By all means. A very good way to spend your time. Watch how you yourself feel as you read. Who do you like and dislike. How does the author, Jonathan F., use his authorship to steer you here and there, to touch on your own emotions. Jonathan F. knows how to hook the reader, and that's what I wanted, a good hook in a good book.

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2012-12-12 读过 Written by one ambitious writer, maybe too ambitious, this book reveal ups and downs of ordinary and typical American family, however, in an uncomfortable way.

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About the author (2010)

Jonathan Franzen is the author of The Corrections, winner of the National Book Award and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Pen/Faulkner. He is also the author of the novels The Twenty-Seventh City and Strong Motion, and two works of nonfiction, How to Be Alone and The Discomfort Zone, all published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. In 1996, he was named one of Granta's Best of Young American Novelists. He lives in New York City and Santa Cruz, California.

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