Franzen has proven with this novel (is it only the second or the third?!) that he is master of portraying the family as microcosm. And also the master of dissecting every conceivable dynamic in a postmodern relationship between husband and wife; parent and child; friend, acquaintance, and neighbor; and the supposed meaning of love, freedom and power in this millenial age.
In this novel titled ‘Freedom’ Franzen speaks directly to this concept on personal liberties. He says, “the personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.” And the dream will indeed always sour. And when it does, it is then open game for one and all to see and wonder how a redemption may come about, if any, and if it does, what the cost of such a redemption might be.
This is not just a story that is engaging and engrossing. It is illuminating in every sense of the word– shinging a light on all the things we thought we knew about ourselves, and all the things we realize we are capable of: things both depraved and noble in the most extremes. And Franzen’s storytelling is not limited to the nature and negotiation of relationships only; intertwined within these stories, he covers all the very current and essential topics of this new millenium ranging from human overpopluation on this planet to the pressing need to pay attention to endangered species.
This thing called freedom is not so free after all; it comes with a great price. Sometimes, one that can only be paid over a lifetime. And for the timebeing, if at all one feels even the smallest sense of insulation, may it be that it is due only to a greater sense of self-awareness in saying in all humility the phrase, There but for the grace of God, go I…