This is the first in a new type of blog post from the Durham Tech Library. Each post will allow a staff member to highlight a book they’ve read recently.
This post is brought to you by Stephen Brooks, reference librarian, who read the book Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.
This novel follows several members of an American family, the Berglunds, as well as their close friends and lovers, as complex and troubled relationships unfold over many years. The book follows them through the last decades of the twentieth century and concludes near the beginning of the Obama administration. The Berglunds are the middle class suburban family that the neighbors just love to talk about. Walter, the successful and doting husband, and Patty, the tall ex varsity basketball player who bakes Christmas cookies for each resident of Barrier Street, seem like the perfect couple. But life is not the pretty picture presented to the world. When their precious first born is corrupted by the wanton girl next door, the edges fray on the Berglunds’ family fabric. An old friend emerges, tall, dark and only slightly disheveled and mistakes are made.
Why did you choose to read this book?
I really liked Franzen’s book The Corrections, which won a number of literary prizes.
What did you like about it?
Franzen tells the story from multiple characters’ points of view and in their unique voices. I felt like I got to know each of the characters, who were well-developed in the novel, and that they were speaking with their own voices rather than that of the narrator.
Was there anything noteworthy about the book?
It is a story of a middle-class family in the U.S. during the period of the 2000s when xenophobia reached a crescendo. Though the plot primarily concerns family dynamics, it was interesting to look back on this period and reflect on what is was like to live in the U.S. during that time and how the members of this family in particular dealt with the social and political climate.
What feeling did the book leave you with?
Resolution. The story had a definite ending, rather than leaving me hanging.
Who would you recommend the book to?
Fans of realistic fiction.
What would you pair this book with?
Interesting question. Maybe I’d pair this book with a trip to any of the places where the story occurs: Minnesota, New York City, South America, West Virginia, etc. It also invites research into some of the topics that drive the characters or influence their lives: overpopulation, human impact on nature and the military-industrial complex for example.
Interested in reading Freedom for yourself? It’s available at the Durham Tech Library.