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Welcome to assignment 3 of our book discussion of Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. We're covering "Mountaintop Removal" to "Womanland" (pages 188–289) from our reading schedule. 

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At this point, I'd like to discuss nature of love—not the romantic kind that's the subject of many novels, poems, movies and songs—but the complications of love between friends of the same gender. In "Mountaintop Removal," Richard makes this observation about his best friend, Walter: "Katz couldn't have said exactly why Walter mattered to him. No other man had warmed Katz's loins the way the sight of Walter did after long absence...But there was definitely something deep-chemical there. Something that insisted on being called love." (page 205)

In "Womanland," Patty confesses to her son that when she saw her college friend Eliza for the first time in 20 years, she ran away:

"I was terrified that she was going to turn around and see me. I was terrified of what was going to happen. Because, you know, I am so not a lesbian. You have to believe that I would know it if I were—half my old friends are gay. And I definitely am not."

"Good to hear," he [Joey] said with a nervous smirk.

"But I realized, yesterday, seeing her, that I'd been in love with her. And I was never able to deal with that." (page 249)

Are Richard and Walter having a "bromance"? If so, how would you define Patty and Eliza's college relationship? Why do you think Patty was unable to deal with her feelings about Eliza so many years later? How do you define love? Are there different kinds of love, or is all love ultimately the same? What do you think the author is trying to say about the nature of friendship and love?

What do you think? Share your comments below!


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