Thursday, April 28, 2011

An Intriguing Portrait of a Family in Post-9/11 America

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2010, 576pp.)

Patty and Walter Berglund, dedicated Democrats and devoted parents, seem to have the perfect suburban lifestyle: a nice house, two kids, and a bright outlook on the future. But all is not well in the Berglund household. After relations with their right-wing neighbors, the Monaghans, go sour, Patty and Walter are dismayed when their rebellious son, Joey--who is dating the Monaghans' daughter--allies himself with the Republican cause and moves in next door. This act of filial defiance causes long-buried regrets to appear and threatens to destroy Patty and Walter’s marriage. Franzen’s intriguing portrait of the Berglund clan explores concepts of personal freedoms, marriage, and family in a post-9/11 America. A well-written novel that manages to be both comic and tragic at the same time, Freedom is not without its flaws. This otherwise enlightening story is marred by its gratuitous and unnecessary descriptions of sexual acts, including a rather graphic sex phone conversation between Joey and his girlfriend. This aside, the Berglunds’ story is a very human one that will appeal to left- and right-wingers alike.

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