Winner of the The John Gardner Fiction Book Award
Patty and Walter Berglund were the new pioneers of old St. Paul—the gentrifiers, the hands-on parents, the avant-garde of the Whole Foods generation. Patty was the ideal sort of neighbor, who could tell you where to recycle your batteries and how to get the local cops to actually do their job. She was an enviably perfect mother and the wife of Walter’s dreams. Together with Walter—environmental lawyer, commuter cyclist, total family man—she was doing her small part to build a better world.
But now, in the new millennium, the Berglunds have become a mystery. Why has their teenage son moved in with the aggressively Republican family next door? Why has Walter taken a job working with Big Coal? What exactly is Richard Katz—outré rocker and Walter’s college best friend and rival—still doing in the picture? Most of all, what has happened to Patty? Why has the bright star of Barrier Street become “a very different kind of neighbor,” an implacable Fury coming unhinged before the street’s attentive eyes?
Jonathan Franzen gives readers an epic of contemporary love and marriage. Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom’s characters as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and moving portrait of our time.
Jonathan Franzen is the author of three novels—The Corrections, The Twenty-Seventh City, and Strong Motion—and two works of nonfiction, How to Be Alone and The Discomfort Zone, all published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He lives in New York City and Santa Cruz, California.
The news about Walter Berglund wasn’t picked up locally—he and Patty had moved away to Washington two years earlier and meant nothing to St. Paul now—but the urban gentry of Ramsey Hill were not so loyal to their city as not to read the New York Times. According to a long and very unflattering story in the Times, Walter had made quite a mess of his professional life out there in the nation’s capital.
Franzen discusses how odd it is to talk about novels through the medium of a brief author video.
At the Moth event during the 2011 PEN World Voices Festival, Jonathan Franzen tells a story on the theme 'What Went Wrong?'
After the show, author Jonathan Franzen answers readers' questions and continues the discussion about his novel and Oprah's Book Club pick Freedom.