Book Review of Freedom

Author: Jonathan Franzen
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Book Type: Hardcover
reviewed on + 22 more book reviews

After thoroughly enjoying "The Corrections" a few years ago, I was extremely excited to read "Freedom", even if I had grown rather tired of how many times I had to hear about the fact that Oprah recommended it to the masses before I was actually able to crack it open. Like one of those bands that you discover when they're relatively unknown (Coldplay, Kings of Leon, Death Cab for Cutie...the list goes on and on...sigh), fall in love with their stuff, and greedily clutch their secret close to your chest (They're all mine damn it!), I was unnerved that Oprah's massive horde of followers had been unleashed upon my Jonathan Franzen (or "Jonny Boy" as I affectionately refer to him). Rather pretentious thoughts such as "Could "Freedom" really be THAT good if Oprah enjoyed it?" swirled through my head and as a result the book became a dust collector on my bookshelf for about a year before I realized that I needed to get over myself, peel the "Oprah Book Club" sticker off of the dust jacket, and spend some quality time with Jonny Boy.

As with "The Corrections", I was pleased to find that "Freedom" also focuses on a severely dysfunctional family and the general "fucked-up-ness" of their lives. What's always amazed me about Jonny Boy is his ability to dissect the deepest, darkest thoughts and actions of his characters and regurgitate them in such a beautiful and darkly humorous manner. With "Freedom", Jonny Boy tackles the trials and tribulations of marriage, aging, sex, depression, overpopulation, infidelity, guilt, regret, deforestation, parenting, death, and (oddly enough) the feline species and their insatiable appetite for songbirds, amongst other things.

Focusing primarily on Walter & Patty's deteriorating marriage, Patty's associated bouts with depression, and the downstream impacts to their family, I had a tough time remaining fully intrigued throughout the novel. The characters were somewhat unlikeable, the story was slow moving, and let's face it, hundreds of pages about a woman's battle with depression, can be, well depressing.

With that said, Johnny Boy did his best to keep me entertained by delving deep into the dark side of human nature, capturing the incredibly fucked up thoughts of each main character and laying them out in the open for the reader to digest. Regardless of your age, race, financial standing, political preference, etc we all have these thoughts from time to time and I'm always amazed (and rather startled) by how close some of these hit home for me.

When all was said and done I found that while I did enjoy "Freedom", I was a little disappointed in the end result. Simply put, it's a beautifully written novel by an incredibly talented writer that is unfortunately bogged down by a rather slow moving story filled with many bland, unlikable characters. If you've never had the pleasure of cracking open one of Jonny Boy's novels, and only have the chance to read one of his books before you kick the bucket, I'd suggest reading "The Corrections", which I feel is far superior to "Freedom". In this particular instance, the grass IS greener on the other side.