by Jonathan Franzen
Freedom Part 4 Summary
How It All Goes Down
Canterbridge Estates Lake
- Remember how the Berglunds had that nice little house on that nice little pond that called Nameless Lake? Well, we're back there now for the end of the book.
- But it's not called (rather, nicknamed) Nameless Lake anymore; now it's officially called Canterbridge Estates Lake, and the twelve homes around it are, you guessed it, Canterbridge Estates. All sounds very regal.
- Walter lives here, in his mom's old house.
- As if the sudden appearance of twelve "McMansions" financed with peculiarly low mortgage rates (and the two years of construction it took to build them) wasn't enough, now he's fighting a losing battle against his neighbors' cats, that hunt and kill his beloved birds. Bah.
- The most vicious of these cats is Bobby, who belongs to his Evangelical neighbor Linda Hoffbauer. Walter asks her to please keep the darn cat indoors, so he won't kill so many birds. She thinks he's crazy, and dismisses him.
- Everyone thinks Walter's crazy. He has a big white beard. This doesn't help anything.
- We see much of this chapter from Linda's point of view. We watch from across the lake as Joey and Connie come up from St. Paul to visit Walter, driving their shiny new Volvo.
- The following year, Walter tries to hand out "bibs" for the neighborhood cats. The neighbors ignore him again.
- Then he blankets the neighborhood with leaflets, with photos of some birds killed by their cats.
- He is, as you've probably guessed, not very popular.
- In winter, Linda's husband plows Canterbridge Court and purposefully blocks Walter's driveway.
- When Bobby the cat disappears, and Linda is sure Walter killed him.
- Next we shift slightly and see things from Walter's point of view. Man, does he hate cats. He hates them so much! Mr. Nice Man really has turned angry.
- He doesn't kill Bobby, but does trap him and drive him to a shelter in Minneapolis.
- Walter's doing OK. He's surviving. He works for the Nature Conservancy, doing the most tedious and mind-numbing tasks they can give him. He's still grieving.
- He has a pretty good relationship with Joey. Jessica, on the other hand, is harder to hear from.
- She calls often, and pleads with him to either take Patty back or to divorce her once and for all. She says Patty has really changed, much for the better.
- He still refuses to see Patty, though.
- After one particularly painful phone conversation with Jessica, he recalls the circumstances of Lalitha's death. Times like this bring him pretty close to believing that nothing matters. Not birds, not cats, nothing.
- In August, he receives Patty's new manuscript in the mail. He doesn't open it.
- A few weeks later, he receives something from Richard too. He doesn't open that either.
- Then in October, Patty shows up. She spends the night in the car until Walter notices her, but he ignores her and goes to work.
- When he comes home, she's sitting on the front steps, shivering in the cold.
- He lets her stay there. A long time. It gets colder.
- He goes inside and furiously opens up her package. Seeing what it is, he brings it outside and yells at her that he's uninterested; he doesn't want to read it.
- Then he goes inside and opens Richard's package: it's a new CD, called Songs for Walter. He smiles and cries.
- Finally, he goes outside to get Patty. She has stopped shivering, and can't stand up. He has to carry her inside. He tries to have her drink something warm, but she can't.
- So he takes her clothes off, and puts her in bed. She still won't warm up. So he takes his own clothes off and lies down next to her. After a long while, she jolts back to life. They stare into each other's eyes, for a long time. He kisses her sweetly.
- And then, with that, we're back across the lake with Linda Hoffbauer. Patty has moved in with Walter, and succeeded in charming all the neighbors. Everyone loves her. She and Walter are now friends with everyone in the neighborhood: hosted barbecues, attending other people's barbecues. (Not taking anyone's cats.)
- And then after a couple of years, they decide to move back to New York, to be close to Jessica, Patty's family, and Richard Katz. Everyone in the neighborhood is sad to see them go.
- They donate the house to a local land trust to become a bird sanctuary. Once they're out of the house, they gut it, leaving it as a potential nesting place for birds. They erect a high fence around the property. On the gate, above the lock, there's a small picture of Lalitha, after whom the preserve is named.
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