Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Human beings are broken, strange creatures, and it seems to me nobody knows that quite like Jonathan Franzen does. At the beginning of the book, we're introduced to the Berglunds, a typical middle-class family living in a revitalized part of urban St. Paul, Minnesota. The Berglunds come off as a striving, rather annoying bunch of liberal ninnies at first, and even their nosy neighbors can tell there's something not-quite-right in the way they operate. The neighbors watch with glee as things turn against these yuppies and their processes start to fall apart. We then are given a view into the strained, strange mind of Patty Berglund, the wife and stay-home mom of the family. She tells her history, including a high school rape, a college friendship, and how she met her husband Walter and his dearest friend Richard, a musician for whom she develops a monstrously unhealthy fascination. Patty is obsessive, and the outcomes of her obsessions are the themes of the book: loss, regret, sacrifice, humiliation -- and yet, after all that, the enduring sweetness of long love.
Franzen pulls no punches. He does not apologize for the flaws of his characters; rather, he leans on those flaws, exploits them, and all to force you to stand slack-jawed in wonder over how magnificent it is to be human, to feel, and to come home again.
As a writer, I strive to make my human beings as thoroughly human as this.
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