I once heard Jonathan Franzen describe his method for writing, which basically was to put on a pair of headphones to block out all noise, lock himself away in a room, and just write. You may have first heard of him when he famously pooh-poohed Oprah Winfrey’s invitation to make his first novel, The Corrections, an official Oprah Winfrey Book Club Selection. He clearly realized the error of his ways, as his latest novel, Freedom, bears the Oprah’s Book Club 2010 Selection seal.
Freedom is 597 pages long, but I managed to read it in about a month, thanks in part to some time spent on airplanes. Taking on this project was also a help, and the fact that it’s a good book didn’t hurt.
It’s the story of a family, the Berglunds, as they travel through life from Minnesota in the 1970s, to Washington D.C. (well, Georgetown), and New York, told from four different vantage points. The only portions of the book written in the first person come from Patty Berglund, who seems to cause everyone pain, but they love her nonetheless. The novel also tells the story from the viewpoint of Patty’s husband, Walter, their son, Joey, and Walter’s college roommate, Richard Katz.
I confess I’m not very deep when it comes to reading books, the same way I’ll enjoy paintings more if they contain animals (how simple is that!). I enjoy Franzen’s style of writing, the story was engaging and just when I thought it was headed for a really sour ending, it surprised me with its tenderness and brought a tear to my eye when I reached the final paragraph.
For a thorough and much more thoughtful summation, here’s the New York Times Book Review of Freedom.