Based on sheer thickness and number of pages (597), FREEDOM would seem like a long book, but it’s really not. It falls into the genre I would describe as “dysfunctional family novels” (see also Anna Karenina and As I Lay Dying), and although it’s necessarily a bit depressing at times (whose life isn’t?), it moves along rapidly.
The hook is that this guy Walter Berglund is reported to be in some trouble in DC, and his former neighbors in St. Paul can’t believe it. Jonathan Franzen (who won the National Book Award for The Corrections, which I haven’t read yet) weaves an engrossing post-9/11 tale in which we learn about Walter and his wife, Patty, and their children, and so on, and so on. Franzen uses the text-within-a-text technique very cleverly; it would be giving too much away to explain how, but suffice it to say it is both satisfying and believable.
I also love how Franzen tackles the title from various angles. While this book is about a dysfunctional family, it’s also about what “freedom” means to different people in different situations.
As summer stretches on for a few more days, there’s still time to sit on the beach with this one.