Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom begins with a deceptively narrow focus. The life of a single family — the Berglunds of St. Paul, Minnsesota — viewed from a distance. The neighborhood they choose. The house they buy and love. The children they grow in the house and how all four Berglunds fit into the neighborhood.
When the topic — the vision — seems nearly exhausted, the field narrows still further. Now we see things from Patty Berglund’s view. But we go back still further and see things in sharp relief and great detail. Her childhood — the things that shaped her. Her college days. The athletics that gave her life meaning. The female stalker who unexpectedly provided her life with the form it will ultimately take. Her distant love of a moody musician. Her actual love of his roommate, Walter Berglund, and the life the couple eventually forge together. In a neighborhood. In a house.
And here, perhaps one third into Freedom, it seems as though it will all either drone on endlessly or all begin again. At this point, Freedom seems to be teetering towards tedious. And then it goes somewhere else.
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