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  New York Times Review

Mukherjee's magisterial "biography" of the most dreaded of modern afflictions. He excavates the deep history of the "war" on cancer, weaving haunting tales of his own clinical experience with sharp sketches of the sometimes heroic, sometimes misguided scientists who have preceded him in the fight.

  Library Journal Review

After 20 years of a liberal, middle-class marriage, Walter and Patty Burglund's relationship falls apart under the weight of a morally ambivalent son, the return of Walter's famous best friend, and the 21st century. The highly anticipated follow-up to the National Book Award winner The Corrections (2001) lives up to the hype with Franzen's ability to capture the twists and turns of U.S. culture and history while weaving them into the lives of flawed but fully developed characters. While actor/narrator David Ledoux aptly portrays the emotions of the story, more distinguishable character voices would have made this audio version at times easier to follow. If you have a patron wanting one of the most heralded books of this year or decade, this is it. [The No. 1 New York Times best-selling Farrar hc received a starred review, LJ 8/10.-Ed.]-Johannah Genett, Hennepin Cty. Libs., Minneapolis (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Patty, a Westchester County high-school basketball star, should have been a golden girl. Instead, her ambitious parents betray her, doing her grievous psychic harm. Hardworking Minnesotan Walter wants to be Patty's hero, and she tries to be a stellar wife and a supermom to Joey and Jessica, their alarmingly self-possessed children, but all goes poisonously wrong. Patty longs for Richard, Walter's savagely sexy musician friend. Walter's environmental convictions turn perverse once he gets involved in a diabolical scheme that ties protection of the imperiled cerulean warbler to mountaintop-removal coal mining in West Virginia. Richard is traumatized by both obscurity and fame. Joey runs amok in his erotic attachment to the intense girl-next-door and in a corrupt entrepreneurial venture connected to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The intricacies of sexual desire, marriage, and ethnic and family inheritance as well as competition and envy, beauty and greed, nature and art versus profit and status, truth and lies all are perceptively, generously, and boldly dramatized in Franzen's first novel since the National Book Award-winning The Corrections (2001). Passionately imagined, psychologically exacting, and shrewdly satirical, Franzen's spiraling epic exposes the toxic ironies embedded in American middle-class life and reveals just how destructive our muddled notions of entitlement and freedom are and how obliviously we squander life and love.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

The epic sprawl of this ambitious yet ultimately unsatisfying novel encompasses everything from indie rock to environmental radicalism to profiteering in the Middle East.The first novel from Franzen in almost a decade invites comparisons with its predecessor, The Corrections, which won the 2001 National Book Award and sparked controversy with Oprah. Both are novels that attempt to engageeven explainthe times in which they transpire, inhabiting the psyches of various characters wrapped in a multigenerational, Midwestern family dynamic. Yet the plot here seems contrived and the characters fail to engage. The narrative takes the tone of a fable, as it illuminates the lives of Patty and Walter Berglund, politically correct liberals who have a seemingly idyllic marriage in Minnesota, and their two children, who ultimately find life way more complicated than the surface satisfaction of their parents had promised. Through flashbacks, chronological leaps and shifts in narrative voice (two long sections represent a third-person autobiography written by Patty as part of her therapy), the novel provides the back stories of Patty and Walter, their disparate families and their unlikely pairing, as the tone shifts from comic irony toward the tragic. Every invocation of the titular notion of "freedom" seems to flash "theme alert!": "He was at once freer than he'd been since puberty and closer than he'd ever been to suicide." "She had so much free time, I could see that it was killing her." "People came to this country for either money or freedom. If you don't have money, you cling to your freedoms all the more angrily." "But it didn't feel like a liberation, it felt like a death." Such ideas seem a lot more important to the novelist than the characters in which he invests them, or the plot in which he manipulates those characters like puppets. Franzen remains a sharp cultural critic, but his previous novels worked better as novels than this one does.If "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose" (as Kris Kristofferson wrote), this book uses too many words to convey too much of nothing.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Summary
<p>Patty and Walter Berglund were the new pioneers of old St. Paul--the gentrifiers, the hands-on parents, the avant-garde of the Whole Foods generation. Patty was the ideal sort of neighbor, who could tell you where to recycle your batteries and how to get the local cops to actually do their job. She was an enviably perfect mother and the wife of Walter's dreams. Together with Walter--environmental lawyer, commuter cyclist, total family man--she was doing her small part to build a better world.</p> <p>But now, in the new millennium, the Berglunds have become a mystery. Why has their teenage son moved in with the aggressively Republican family next door? Why has Walter taken a job working with Big Coal? What exactly is Richard Katz--outré rocker and Walter's college best friend and rival--still doing in the picture? Most of all, what has happened to Patty? Why has the bright star of Barrier Street become "a very different kind of neighbor," an implacable Fury coming unhinged before the street's attentive eyes?</p> <p>In his first novel since The Corrections , Jonathan Franzen has given us an epic of contemporary love and marriage. Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom's characters as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time.</p>
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