Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, is a suitable follow-up to Franzen’s most recent offering, The Corrections. This epic novel follows the lives of the Walter and Patty Berglund, beginning with the release of an unflattering article about Walter in the New York Times. The subsequent five hundred pages chronicle the lives of the Berglunds before they were a couple, during their idealistic courtship complicated by Richard, his college roommate, their early marriage, and its unraveling. The book is darkly funny while calling out the reader’s own moral decisions as Freedom‘s characters live with the consequences of their decisions.
Walter is a highly principled person, determined to press his view of the world on others. Eventually, he becomes entangled in a questionable business deal which he convinces himself is a means to achieve a moral end. Finally, he “was compromised and losing on every front.” Patty is unhappy and has her own moral dilemma with her longstanding attraction to Richard, who is also Walter’s best friend. The theme of “freedom” pervades the story–freedom from family, freedom from situations, freedom from obligations. This freedom has consequences which are not always pleasant or expected. “Mistakes Were Made,” as Patty entitles her own memoir, included in the text of the novel.
Freedom was published in 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It is in stock at all three local Barnes and Noble stores.