In his latest novel, Jonathan Franzen returns to fiction with a comic and tragic epic of contemporary love and marriage. Freedom captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the responsibility of privilege. Charting the characters' mistakes and joys as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever-changing and confusing world, Freedom is an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time.
Patty and Walter Berglund were the new pioneers of old St. Paul, Minnesota—the gentrifiers, the hands-on parents, the avant-garde of the Baby Boomers. 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 is Walter working away from home so much? What has happened to their teenage son? Why has Patty, the bright star of Barrier Street, become "a very different kind of neighbor," coming unhinged before the street's attentive eyes? And what exactly is eccentric rocker Richard Katz—Walter's college best friend and rival—still doing in the picture?
As the story explores the nature of love, it also tackles our tenuous relationship with nature. When Walter fights to preserve a habitat for an endangered bird, the troubled history between Patty, Richard and himself threatens to topple the deal, along with everything he believes about truth and illusion.
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Published on September 17, 2010