Monday, October 4, 2010

Book twenty-nine: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

SPOILER ALERT.  There are comments in this post that give away elements of the ending.

When Jonathan Franzen's new book Freedom hit stores, it seemed like the book world could talk about nothing else. The reviewers raved endlessly about Franzen's amazing talent and modern story-telling ability.  So how could I not read the book.  But I downloaded it with a good deal of skepticism; I mean really, there's no way this book could be that good.  Mr. Franzen seems happy to prove my skepticism wrong.  This book is brilliant.

Franzen's writing is effortless.  So effortless that you sometimes forget how beautifully descriptive and observant it is.  It's hard to believe that Franzen is single with no children because he writes about family relationships with such precision that it infiltrates your mind and forces you to confront your own personal relationships.  I consider myself a pretty stable, well-adjusted person who's lived his life through strong family ties and no "psychological" issues. But this book called my stability into question, asking me to think about many of my relationships and how I've been unable to maintain some of them.

I loved the symmetrical structure of the book; the gossipy neighbors that inform the opening and closing; the dual third-person journals that fit just inside the opening and the closing (by the way my dislike of first-person writing seems justified in this book as Franzen chooses to have a character write her journals in third person); and the central sections that make you both love and hate key characters.

Freedom is long, clocking in at more than 12,500 Kindle units (beep boop bop bop beep). But it never reads long.  I never felt like the writing needed editing. And Freedom is often so engaging that I would re-read passages not to make sure I understood the meaning, but to just enjoy the writing.

For a book that loves depression and mental issues, Freedom offers a wonderful, happy ending, giving me hope that even if I've screwed up some my personal relationships, they might turn out alright after all.


  1. Hey, thanks for this review. I was wondering if the book could live up to all of the hype. Also, thanks for all of your other posts, especially the posts about art. I seem to understand and appreciate art a bit more each time you introduce me to places like the DAM or that really cool garden in Washington DC.

  2. Mary (Shambaugh) RauchfussOctober 13, 2010 at 9:47 AM

    I'd like to add my thanks as well! I'm a proud member of Jeff's Book and Art Club :)