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Books: Freedom

November 27, 2011

If I may be permitted to summarize the many reviews, discussions, critiques, study groups (et.al) that have occurred regarding this book since its release in 2010, Freedom may well be the great American novel of the past decade. And like any great novel, its affect remains on the reader even after they have closed the cover.

For me, the affect of this novel correlated strongly with a powerful self-critique. In Freedom, the main characters are explored by the narrator and (retroactively) by themselves in a kind of prose-autopsy, the motivations, histories, and deeply buried traits behind each action, conversation, and personal relationship on display for brutal scrutiny. The result of this, besides an insight into complex characters that propels the plot and the reader forward, is that, several hours after finishing a chapter, my mind was buried deep in an analysis of my own thoughts.

What appears at first to be a cliched critique of American suburban life quickly unwinds into a story about real American life, of characters who are impossibly familiar in their behaviors and connections in the world we ourselves inhabit. What appear at first great caricatures of tired personas (the bookish environmentalist, the promiscuous rock star) quickly evolve into characters who are complex in the most palpably human ways. What appeared at first to be me reading this novel quickly became  a doppelganger reading, a person who shared my thoughts and actions without ever knowing why. Worth owning in hardcover.

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