A Novel

Downloadable Audiobook - 2010
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The idyllic lives of civic-minded environmentalists Patty and Walter Berglund come into question when their son moves in with aggressive Republican neighbors, green lawyer Walter takes a job in the coal industry, and go-getter Patty becomes increasingly unstable and enraged.
Publisher: [North Kingstown, R.I.] : BBC Audiobooks America, 2010.
ISBN: 9780792773221
Additional Contributors: Ledoux, David - Narrator
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May 13, 2015

Written in a circulating through time style about how our ancestors affect us and our descendants. It is a modern dynastic book about a "regular" family. I wanted to read anything by Jonathan Franzen, because I saw him lead a nature walk through Central Park in NY City and he is a birder. Initially, it was a doldrum beginning that had no hook and I was about to give it up when it turned on itself and became a beast alluding to motives people have for doing exactly the opposite of what they truly want to do and when they do what they want to do why they should not have done so. Stick with it. The audio book is particularly well read by David Ledoux

JCLLauraH Nov 26, 2013

For the first several chapters of this book, I didn't know what to make of it. I felt like I was missing something. It was like I was staring at a piece of art trying desperately to figure out what exactly the artist was trying to say and being frustrated at not getting it. Then suddenly I was into the story, and everything else fell away. I was most intrigued by the story of modern motherhood woven into this book. Patty always felt her own mother was too distant, so she vows to do better. Unfortunately she ends up pushing away her own children and making even bigger mistakes than her own parents did. One of my favorite quotes from Patty is:

“Parents are programmed to want the best for their kids, regardless of what they get in return. That's what love is supposed to be like, right? But in fact, if you think about it, that's kind of a strange belief. Given what we know about the way people really are. Selfish and shortsighted and egotistical and needy. Why should being a parent, in and of itself, somehow confer superior-personhood on everybody who tries it? Obviously it doesn't.”

In addition to parent/child relationships, Franzen also devotes large portions of the plot to political and corporate corruption after the Iraq war, environmentalism, the music industry, what it means to be middle class, and of course the whole thing hinges on the relationship between the two main characters, Patty and her husband Walter.

If you're reading this book and wondering if it's ever going to go anywhere, just know that it is, and that it is fabulous if you give it time.

Dec 12, 2012

It was a struggle for me so I gave up soon after listening to disc 1. I couldn't imagine listening to 10 more discs of that stuff. I didn't want to find out where the story was going next. It felt like I was listening to some kind of family counseling or psychiatric group therapy, with a bunch of depressed people airing their grievances about everybody that they ever came in contact with.

Sep 29, 2012

Not for me. Like another commenter, I hated the tone of the narrator. And I didn't find the characters appealing. There might be a fascinating intellectual commentary inside this book, but I couldn't bear to wade through the work to unpick it.

Mar 16, 2012

To say that most readers of will find the characters in this story unlikeable would be an understatement. Still, it's hard not to get drawn into the complex world of Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

Right from the first page the setup of the Berglund family is constructed with extraordinary detail. Thought and heart are put into nearly every phrase, with each interaction coming across effortless and real. The story is framed by stretching back and forth through several generations of Berglund family history though the soul of the novel is the connective single moments, which almost always relate back to the story's central characters, Patty and Walter. Along with their friend Richard Katz, these are profoundly flawed human beings.

Give yourself time to fall into this one.

Jan 26, 2012

I was only able to tolerate the narrator for the first 10 minutes of Disc 1. Highly annoying tone usually reserved for explaining something complex to a four year old. May try to read the book later.

jmaybooks Apr 12, 2011

Boring. Read through and nothing of interest really happened. Like a book of gossip

Jan 27, 2011

Teresa + 1 other recommendation

Oct 27, 2010

A solidly good book; a voyeuristic look into American life and its shifting ideals. Subtly moving, readably intellectual, both hilarious and depressing. After reading Freedom, you will feel changed, but you won't be able to pinpoint how. It's long, but listening to it on audiobook makes it go by faster than you want it to.


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