I saw Jonathan Franzen read one of the first chapters of Freedom at the Boston Public Library last year, and it was fantastic. Franzen has what is best described by my roommate as “an awkward charm,” and when you read the book, his distinct voice and persona come through in every word. If you ever get the chance to hear him speak or read, it’s worth it.
Freedom tells the story of the Berglund’s, a middle class family struggling to to figure out who they are, how their past has shaped them, and what they want their lives to look like. Each character makes a set of choices based on what they feel they should do, and the characters spend the book working through whether the choice they should have made is the choice they wanted to make.
Patty, a former college basketball star, went to college in Minnesota to escape her Westchester family and chose to become Walter’s wife, and a full time mother to their children. Walter, raised by an alcoholic father in a family desperately trying to keep their run down motel afloat, initially abandons his radical left wing ideas to work as a lawyer, in a steady job, providing for his family. Joey, their son, chooses to marry his long time girlfriend at the age of twenty, and engage in a variety of unsavory business dealings.