Study Guide

Freedom Tough-o-Meter

By Jonathan Franzen


(5) Tree Line

Freedom isn't the easiest read, but not for the reasons you might expect. The language is straightforward (sure, with the occasional big vocabulary word thrown in); the dialogue is so realistic you might start to wonder if Franzen's been listening in on your phone conversations.

One thing that does make it difficult, for us at least, is that so much of it is so painful. Like watching Precious or listening to Blood on the Tracks, everything is very beautiful and all, but it's not a very fun place to be. At the same time, Freedom is such an irresistible page-turner, you can't bear to put it down.

There are maybe just a couple of complicated sections, like when Walter is describing his shady partnership with Vin Haven. Or when Joey is walking to the emergency room and wondering how he got himself into this mess, remembering a pointless trip to Poland and a pending trip to Paraguay.

But, other than that, Freedom is smooth sailing – if you can stomach all the arguments, and can hold back your tears.

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