This book dragged a little for me, but it's Franzen so I knew it would going into it. (Sometimes it's like his whole goal is just to make you suffer.) It's preachy, snooty, and melodramatic. It paints a pretty dismal portrait of the modern American experience (for the privileged class, at least) and it's full of "big picture" questions like: “What is freedom?” “What is the price we pay for freedom?” and, “Am I an asshole?" I can answer the last one with an emphatic "yes." Freedom is the story of an asshole couple, their asshole friend, their asshole kids, and their asshole neighbors. It will remind you of at least a dozen assholes you know IRL.
But...that's the point, so whatever. I hated it, but not because it's bad; I hated it because you're supposed to. That's what we do, right? We're a society of disingenuous, self-absorbed assholes, pseudo intellectuals, and haters. Sigh. I'll give him that, it's hard to talk about why you don't like this book without it looking like you're proving his point. *shakes fist, mutters "Franzen!"*
Jonathan Franzen excels at writing characters who are just the worst, and the characters in Freedom are a prime example. Though thoroughly unlikeable, he's an expert at character development, so I felt as though I knew each of them well. They're flawed, layered, and almost unbearably real, reminding us that while we might not like what we see in them, we certainly recognize traces of them in ourselves.
Aside from the jerk factor, this book's one major shortcoming is the total lack of Jessica's perspective. Leaving her out was an enormous mistake and one that I'm just kind of confused about. Franzen included Joey's weirdo story line, Jessica's would have provided a nice counterbalance. Or maybe not, maybe she would have been even more infuriating. In any case, it's total absence was strange and disappointing. But...whatever. I'm over it.