Some books have such unsympathetic characters I just can't slog through them, even if their travails are so unusual and/or erotic and/or bloody-minded. And then there's the very well-written book, thicker than a Dagwood sandwich, whose characters are beyond unsympathetic but the writing is so damn good I just keep on slugging away until I find out What Really Happened.
Such a book is Freedom. Nobody could suggest the author isn't a stellar writer. He invents and animates an odd bunch of people. Uber-wife/mother Patty Berglund and uber-unselfish, liberal, trusting, good
Walter Berglund...uber-selfish musician Richard Katz...uber-selfish, manipulative Joey Berglund...uber-weird Casey with her fixation on Joey...The introspection never seemed to end. Did I take a course in psychoanalysis or did I read a work of fiction? At times, I wasn't sure.
Frankly, I didn't care what happened to most of these people, their lives and thoughts and emotions were dissected in such exquisite detail that I even skipped to the ends of paragraphs (only in the second half...I was running out of steam by then). But then Franzen rewarded my perseverance with eye-opening life details that I knew all along but didn't really know at all. He made me howl with blindingly accurate takes on modern America: big politics, big money, big coal, small morals, stupid dreams and deserved catastrophes, loves and hates and despises, inexplicable obsessions and paybacks of every size and shape and effect.
Is this a summer read? Only if you start it today...expect to finish it by Labor Day.
I give it a 3+. What do you give it?