“Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen


In 2010 I had a wonderful pleasure of hearing a short lecture and getting the signature of Jonathan Franzen.  Meeting him was a pleasure, he was kind, he was inquisitive, he asked Jer a a few questions  (in our 2 minutes at standing around a table to get his autograph).  His lecture was insightful and engaging.

At this time, my husband had read and fallen in love with the writing style of Jonathan Franzen.  Jonathan writes characters who are flawed; “normal people” in “normal” situations.  His writing captures the spirit and the time period of the “2010s”.  Franzen read a portion of “Freedom” at the lecture.  The writing has grit.  His writing has a poetic style when the character calls for such a flair.

If you know my husband and I, you probably know what I’m trying to say here.  For those who don’t know my husband and I, here’s the undertone to what I’m writing here:

I didn’t think I would enjoy reading Jonathan Franzen’s work.  I often call my husband a book snob.  He loves to read Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Steinbeck, etc.  I thought Franzen would be too dark, too real, too much like every day life for me to enjoy.  I love murder mysteries (you know, where at the end of each book the bad guy is caught and the world is just that much safer).  I love Harry Potter and the Hunger Games.  I love Science Fiction.  I prefer for my books to have a little escapism built into them.

However, if Jeremy says something is good … well, I had to give it a chance.  “Freedom” did not disappoint.  It is an amazing book that explores what it means to be free in a world that is constantly striving to enhance or make sure you can hold on to all of your relationships.

This doesn’t mean that I liked each of the characters in the book.  But, I think, that is part of the experience of reading this book.  I experienced the desire to punch or hug different characters or something the same character at different parts of the story.  I cried.  I rolled my eyes.  I laughed.  I got my escapism by getting lost in the lives of these family members.

At 562 pages, this is no small novel.  But I think I read it in a week.  I didn’t want to put it down.  I took it in the car with me while Jeremy drove us to our next event.  I find that when I think of American freedoms, as I am bound to do this week with the Fourth of July holiday coming up, I think ever so slightly differently about them now that I have read this book.