Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

“There had always been something not quite right abut the Berglunds...” It’s page one and we’re already knee-deep in a complex and uncomfortable family, complex because of Franzen’s deep understanding of family dynamics, and uncomfortable because of ours.

Interested in taking the cover off our superficial lives and delving into the “hot stuff” underneath, Franzen seems to enjoy cracking open a family’s veneer, and magnifying the ugliness underneath.

The author’s cell-felt recognition of middle-class troubles become entertaining through character trajectories that are often questionable, yet fascinating. Freedom’s family is flawed, but Franzen makes us feel okay about his character’s mistakes. Patty, Walter and Richard become tangible and immediate to the point where I find myself talking about them like they’re my neighbours. Sure, there are family dramas that are as juicy, plot devices as clever, but Franzen’s characters are hyper-vivid, existing long after the last page...

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