The blogger realizes that the novel she is about to discuss is neither new nor noteworthy. Considering Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom was published in 2010, the novel has therefore lost its new and noteworthy qualities over the years, but none of its other commendable ones. In spite of these reasons, the novel touched and inspired the blogger so thoroughly that she felt the need to share her sentiments about it, notwithstanding her lateness in doing so.
This novel has always been on the blogger’s reading list seeing as Freedom received fantastic reviews and topped several bestseller and “must-read” lists in 2010. Intimidated by the sheer enormity of the novel, the blogger unfortunately delayed reading Freedom and opted in favor of shorter, newer and more noteworthy books.
Opportunity presented itself last week when Alison traveled to Boston for her older sister’s graduation from Harvard Graduate School of Education. Knowing that Alison would be spending at least five hours commuting to Massachusetts, sitting through a boring Ivy League commencement ceremony and spending ample time riding various modes of Boston public transportation, the blogger realized this short Memorial Day vacation would ensure abundant reading time to dedicate to Franzen’s heavy work of fiction.
Not long after cracking Freedom’s thick spine, Alison quickly learned why this novel received such critical acclaim from notable media (The New York Times, NPR) and notable influencers (Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama). The parallels to some of the bloggers’ favorite authors (Jeffrey Euginedes, Chad Harbach) became apparent too; reading Freedom reminded the blogger of reading The Marriage Plot and The Art of Fielding (though both were released well after Franzen’s book was published, they remain two of her recent favorite reads).
The narrative dripped of conflicted characters and their tangled love stories and relationships with one another. Heavy themes of love, lust, loyalty, competition, betrayal, forgiveness and of course, freedom were clearly woven into this artfully written novel. Whether they were manifest as sibling rivalries, political issues or marital infidelities, competitiveness was a strong, crucial theme that often defined the characters’ wants and needs. Additionally, various forms of liberation (physical, environmental, sexual, emotional) provided the characters with catharsis and freedom from whatever pressures (financial, emotional or mental) weighed upon their psyches. The style, like The Art of Fielding, A Visit From The Goon Squad and The Marriage Plot, was also poignantly written from the points-of-views of several characters – Patty Berglund’s autobiographies in third person being particularly long and captivating segments.
The characters in this novel were the blogger’s favorite element. Patty, tragic and unhappy as Anna Karenina, faced constant confusion regarding how she wanted to live, love and parent, but she told her stories with sincerity and wit. Contrastingly, portions of the novel expressing the Richard Katz’ and Joey Berglund’s perspectives were just as heartbreaking and illuminating. The blogger caught herself crying on several occasions because the love stories and strained relationships were so painful, sorrowful and universal that they reminded herself of her own personal failures and mistakes.
The blogger highly recommends this work of fiction; in spite of its 600 pages, Alison finished it within four days. The ending is unexpected and dare she say, happy? According to the novel, “There is, after all, a kind of happiness in unhappiness, if it’s the right unhappiness.”