Author: Jonathan Franzen

Title: Freedom

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publication Date: August 2010

Number of Pages: 562

Geographical Setting: Minnesota, NY, Washington DC, West Virginia, South America

Time Period: Present-day 21st century

Series (if applicable): N/A

Plot Summary:

The Berglunds are your typical contemporary, environmental family.  This is the story of two highly educated parents who are devoted to raising socially aware kids.  Walter and Patty Berglund are insistent on providing for their kids unconditional love, something both parents lacked in their own childhood.  Both Walter and Patty are highly successful in their own accomplishments.  Walter is a successful, green lawyer who rides his bike to work everyday, and Patty is a former basketball all-star, turned devoted mother and homemaker.  They have two children, Joey and Jessica, both of whom are stellar students on the path to their own successes.  While the family seems perfect, they are far from it.  There is much conflict between Joey and his father, which drives Joey to move in with his girlfriend’s family next door.  Not only is he under eighteen, but the neighbors are staunch Republicans, which infuriates Walter.  This act of defiance by Joey sends Patty into a deep depression and she becomes disillusioned with her choices in life.  Being a good wife and mother was all she wanted, but why is she so unhappy and why does she pine for Walter’s best friend and rocker, Richard Katz?  With all that is going on, Jessica gets lost in the mix.

The story then takes you back to explain Patty and Walter’s childhood and college times.  It gives you an opportunity to really understand their family dynamics.  As their lives fall apart, they make lots of mistakes, but eventually they find ways to work through their issues and feelings.  It is a bittersweet story that keeps you wondering throughout the book if they can make it through some of life’s most difficult tribulations.  It is truly a compelling read.

Subject Headings: Middle class families, dysfunctional families, city and town life — Minnesota, suburban life, husband and wife, Saint Paul (Minn.), triangles (interpersonal relationships), neighbors, self-discovery, self-fulfillment, sexuality, political commentary

Appeal: relaxed pace, densely written, bleak, bittersweet, darkly humorous, character-driven, domestic, intricately plotted, flawed characters, multiple points of view, complex, flashbacks, contemporary, political, smart, sophisticated, literary, evolving characters

3 Terms that best describe this book: intricate, flawed, evolving characters

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

John Lennon:  The Life by Philip Norman – biography, recounts the other side of John Lennon’s life, family and traumatic childhood.  He was hugely successful in his career yet struggled in his family and emotional life.  One of the main characters in Freedom is a rocker celebrity who struggles to lead a successful personal life.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers – Memoir, family and relationships, character-driven, relaxed pace, moving, reflective, candid, compelling, lyrical, witty, learning to cope with death and responsibility, brothers.

Man Killed By Pheasant:  and Other Kinships:  a Memoir by John Price – Memoir, autobiography, family and relationships, deeply rooted in American Midwest, lyrical, evocative, coming-of-age memoir, personal narratives, 21st century, reflective.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Little Children by Tom Perotta – This book also has very flawed characters that are dealing with martial problems, affairs, and dysfunctional families.  The family is also living in middle-class America.  Domestic fiction, husband and wife, suburban life, extramarital relations, parent and child relationships

White Noise by Don DeLillo – Literary fiction, stylistically complex, bleak, darkly humorous, satirical, middle-class American life

We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates – Literary fiction, character-driven, relaxed pace, melancholy, reflective, stylistically complex, dramatic

Name: Jeannine Kropski


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