There are books that you read as you drift off to sleep, setting them aside and then coming back to them the next night. This is not that type of book...moreThere are books that you read as you drift off to sleep, setting them aside and then coming back to them the next night. This is not that type of book. Based on my experience, this is the kind of book that you pick up at night and then read straight through, getting up several times to avoid sleep, in order to keep reading. From the first line, I was transfixed. While the book is well plotted and interesting, it was the characters that kept me turning the pages late last night. Larry Ott, town bogeyman, with a life so heartbreaking that I intermittently sobbed as I read about him, and Silas "32" Jones, a local police officer with ghosts of his own, tell their stories (story, really) in a way that makes them come alive. In addition to terrific, fully realized characters, Mr. Franklin has the language of the Deep South down pat. I found myself periodically reading lines aloud just to appreciate how right it all was. As a thriller, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is fine, as a story about two boys, now men, coming of age in Mississippi, it is sublime.
PS. After getting a rather sizable percentage of my friends and family to read this book (all of them loved it), I just reread it for my Southern Literary group. We really need a sixth star.(less)
I wanted to read Freedom not because of all the hoopla (Is Mr. Franzen overrated? Is Jennifer Weiner a better, yet tragically more ignored, writer? [D...moreI wanted to read Freedom not because of all the hoopla (Is Mr. Franzen overrated? Is Jennifer Weiner a better, yet tragically more ignored, writer? [Dear God, no] Does the Emperor have no clothes? Etc., etc., ad naueseum). I wanted to read it because I liked The Corrections, but I didn't love it and I always wondered if the fault was mine. I read The Corrections on a particularly awful trip to Los Angeles (my least favorite place on planet Earth) to bury my grandmother and have always meant to read it again, as there was so much in it that was great. I wondered if I was in a different place mentally, whether I would find it great in toto.
I will read The Corrections again and amend my four star rating upward if appropriate, but I can say this with certainty - in my opinion - Freedom is beyond great. This was one of the best experiences with a book I have had in a decade. The characters were interesting, complex, multi-dimensional people who interacted for the most part in believable, if often heartbreaking, ways. The Berglunds - Patty and Walter - the central characters of the novel, as well as their children, Jessica and Joey, felt as real a family as many I know (and more real than some). Watching them (and Walter's best friend, Richard) struggle with life and all it throws at you was riveting. I found myself rooting for everyone concerned. From trying to be a good mother to trying to save the world to fighting being corrupted by the system to just trying to figure out who you are, the characters in Freedom make choices that sometimes made me cringe, but never made me feel that they were anything but real, breathing people.
Obviously, given the title, freedom and what to do with it was a major theme and while it came at you from all sides, it never felt forced or overly dominant. I especially loved how well Franzen captured the freedom of sports, of competing, of truly being good at something that while you are doing it takes the attention of every corpuscle. Although there was a little bit of lecturing on the political side, most of the commentary flowed with the plot and felt real. Maybe that is what I liked best, this book seemed real. A real look at this segment of America and the people who inhabit it. I didn't feel that it was a condescending look as some have claimed, but rather an empathetic one.
So, another fawning review of Freedom, another person standing in awe of Mr. Franzen's talent, another book lover who wanted even more than the 561 pages presented. Sorry not to be more original, but man, this book is fantastic. Please ignore the anti Freedom backlash and give it a read.(less)
Olive Kitteridge is one of the most real characters I have ever found in a book. Because of this, she is not always nices, or even likable, but she is...moreOlive Kitteridge is one of the most real characters I have ever found in a book. Because of this, she is not always nices, or even likable, but she is sure readable. This Pulitzer winner sucked me right in and held me close until the end. I want to know more about Olive and everyone in her life. I laughed out loud and was moved to tears more than once. Truly well done.(less)