Rigid characters are boring. I personally believe that even saints can be bad, in the same way as villains can possess redeeming and even likable traits. This is, perhaps, why I have always been fascinated with literary works with realistically flawed characters. And yes, Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom is one of them.
The novel revolves around the Berglunds, a seemingly ordinary American family. Walter, the dad, is known as an environmentalist who soon gets involved in a coal company. Patty, the mom, looks so perfect at first but is later on faced with a lot of trouble. They have two children, Jessica and Joey. Jessica is a great person however, Joey often overshadows her. He’s Patty’s favorite child, after all.
Things seem okay in the beginning. In fact, the first few pages of the book suggest that the family is really doing fine. But all of a sudden, things change. And we’re taken into a roller coaster ride of emotions. We see how each family member fights their own battles, against themselves and each other. We see them entangled with their pasts and get conflicted in their future: Patty rekindles romance with her husband’s old-time friend, Walter gets antagonized for working with a coal company, and Joey ends up getting married with a girl he doesn’t really like at first. Walter and Patty also get a divorce. We see their loyalties and priorities change, too, something that’s so human. Confusing, right?
Yet, despite all the twists and turns in this novel, one thing is for sure: It is going to make you realize a lot not only about how tricky familial relationships can be but also how complex the current society is. Here, relevant topics like the war, environmental issues, corruption, and even the emergence of media are also covered. You’ll even see its parallelisms with the America we know today.