I was expecting so much with this novel… but it didn’t live up to the hype. I think Oprah’s enthusing just made it even more disappointing. I thought the characters were quite interesting, but I couldn’t warm to Pattie. Every aspect of her life was revealed to us, yet she just came across as so mundane. Not unlike another American heroine, Scarlett O'Hara, she seemed to waste her life dreaming of one man, while longing for another. No matter how hard she tried to be a good mother, she still managed to mess up her relationship with her son. That was the most depressing part of the whole story, as it doesn't bode well for the rest of us.
As for the title of the book - well it is all too obvious. Each character is struggling to deal with all the freedom that life has thrown at them: freedom to make decisions; to love or to hate; to waste their life if they want; to mess up royally if they choose; to try and save the world or not. I must admit that the passages about conserving flora and fauna in the Appalachian Mountains were a little too detailed for my liking and slowed the plot right down.
After all the time I invested in this novel, the ending was especially unrewarding - every issue was resolved, every problem worked through. It just didn't seem believable. Must there always be a happy ending? It seemed such a cop-out. Perhaps Franzen had an eye on Hollywood and a possible film deal when finishing the book? That said, 'Freedom' was thought-provoking and, once in a while, the characters still float into my mind. By the end, I was glad to have finished it, but I will not be recommending it to my friends.
Also by Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections: A Novel, How to Be Alone: Essays