by Jonathan Franzen
Freedom Part 2, Chapter 4 Summary
How It All Goes Down
Mistakes Were Made (Conclusion), A Sort of Letter to Her Reader
- Nope, we didn't make a mistake. After Part 3 in this book comes the last chapter of Part 2.
- Patty decides to write Walter a summary of the six years since they separated.
- Here's the summary:
- After leaving their house, she spends the night in a hotel. She considers killing herself by taking an overdose of sleeping pills, but just can't do it. She claims this was the worst night of her life.
- She goes to live with Richard because it was his fault that she was in this situation in the first place, and also the only one who would understand where she was at.
- She's totally furious with Walter, and thinks it's unfair that he threw her out. She's, again, very jealous of Lalitha. Sure, she may have Richard, but Richard cannot truly love anyone.
- So she lives with Richard in Jersey City for about four or five months. She just thinks about Walter the whole time.
- When she hears about his crazy speech in West Virginia, she feels like she'd been holding him back all these years.
- Then she hears about Lalitha's death, and feels "great sorrow and compassion for Walter, great guilt about the many times she'd wishes Lalitha dead, sudden fear of her own death, a momentary flicker of selfish hope that Walter might take her back now, and then sickening regret for having gone to Richard and thereby ensured that Walter would never take her back" (2.4.5).
- Richard is doing his best to be a good partner, consenting to the domestic life Patty wants to have with him.
- She works as a barista.
- Eventually she leaves, after a very messy and bitter break-up with Richard.
- She stays with her old basketball friend Cathy and her partner, who live in Wisconsin and have twins. Patty helps take care of the kids and realizes how much she loves young children.
- Then her father gets sick – very sick, very quickly. Cancer. She goes back to Westchester to be with her parents.
- It's intense. She hasn't been there in years and years. Not much has changed.
- Seeing her father Ray so sick, she feels regret for having been so unforgiving all these years.
- They try to reconnect, but, again, it's been so long, so it's just awkward.
- She sits by his bedside and allows herself to love her dad.
- Then he dies. Five hundred people attend the funeral, including many of the disadvantaged minority clients he'd helped over the years, offering his services for free (remember, he was a public defender).
- All of Ray's colleagues talk about what an amazing guy he was. Abigail gives an inappropriate eulogy.
- Jessica resents her mother for having denied her the opportunity to have a relationship with her grandfather.
- And once Ray is gone, a bitter feud ensues over his estate. Here's a summary of that horribleness (a summary within a summary, yes):
- Ray's father had inherited from his father a big country estate in northwest New Jersey. With Ray gone, now it's Joyce's.
- Patty's two sisters want her to sell it and give them some of the money.
- Problem is, Patty's brother (Edgar) is living there, with his wife and children.
- Patty says she'll take care of the problem. If nothing else, it's a good excuse to catch up with her family.
- Joyce wonders how Patty became so strong and independent. This is one of the highlights of Patty's life.
- OK, more back-story: Edgar (Patty's bro, in case you already forgot) had made a fortune in stocks, and then lost it. He married a young Russian Jewish woman named Galina. She insisted on spending lots of money on expensive clothes and things. And then she embraced Orthodox Judaism and insisted on having lots of babies.
- Patty goes to visit her sister Abigail. She's as self-involved as ever. She wants the money from the estate to start a female comedy troupe and tour Europe.
- She also explains that Galena recently hit a school crossing guard with her car. And they didn't have insurance, so now they owe lots and lots of money to the insurance companies. So any income they have will go towards that debt. So they shouldn't get any piece of the house.
- Abigail also says lots of mean things to Patty, about herself and Walter.
- Then Patty goes to see Edgar and Galina. The estate is a strange sight: big pallets of wholesale food outside, donated by their local rabbi and synagogue. Cows on the tennis court. Edgar on a tractor. Galena surrounded by cute, messy little kids.
- They claim that the grandfather wanted the house to stay in the family, and be a farm. Galena does most of the talking, and basically talks smack about the other family members. This isn't helping anything.
- Patty is discouraged and leaves. She goes to see Veronica, her other sister, who until now we have never met. She lives in Manhattan.
- She was previously a painter and dancer. Now she's a secretary who sometimes still paints. She wants the money so she can quit working, because working is a big drag.
- She doesn't like having to spend time with Abigail, either.
- Finally she goes back to Westchester, and wonders why all her siblings are so unsuccessful, when their parents managed to achieve so much.
- Also, she finally asks Joyce why she never attended any of her basketball games.
- Joyce doesn't have a good reason. She says it was totally selfish and wrong, and takes full responsibility for that.
- Finally, Patty devises a plan: the estate will be sold, and Joyce will give half of the money to Ray's brothers. Joyce will also keep some of the money herself, to dispense funds to Edgar and Galina as they need them. Abigail and Veronica get the money they want.
- Patty accepts $75,000 herself, to help start a new life on her own.
- Surprisingly enough, pretty much everyone in the family gets what they want, and puts it to good use. Wowza.
- Patty settles down in Brooklyn, and stays for five years, "working as a teacher's aide in a private school, helping first-graders with their language skills and coaching softball and basketball in the middle school" (2.4.7).
- She speaks to Jessica very often, and has (finally) developed a great relationship with her.
- Things with Joey are rather less perfect, mostly because of her strained relationship with Connie.
- Joey has become enormously successful, starting his own sustainable, shade-grown coffee business.
- Jessica is in literary publishing: not the most lucrative industry.
- Patty ends this last chapter by saying she's 52 now, and really wishes Walter would take her back.
- Oh, but first, one last thing: where she got the idea to write this last chapter.
- She ran into Richard Katz on the street one day, in downtown Manhattan. He looks older, and his glasses make him look almost sophisticated.
- He has a steady girlfriend, and has been doing classy orchestral pieces and scoring work.
- They go for a drink and catch up. She tells him how much she misses Walter.
- He suggests that she write him a story.
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