[Book Review] Freedom by Jonathan Franzen


freedom jonathan franzen

Rigid characters are boring. I personally believe that even saints can be bad, in the same way as villains can possess redeeming and even likable traits.

This is, perhaps, why I have always been fascinated with literary works with realistically flawed characters. And yes, Jonathan Franzen's Freedom is one of them.

The novel revolves around the Berglunds, a seemingly ordinary American family. Walter, the dad, is known as an environmentalist who soon gets involved in a coal company. Patty, the mom, looks so perfect at first but is later on faced with a lot of trouble. They have two children, Jessica and Joey. Jessica is a great person however, Joey often overshadows her. He's Patty's favorite child, after all.

Things seem okay in the beginning. In fact, the first few pages of the book suggest that the family is really doing fine. But all of a sudden, things change. And we're taken into a roller coaster ride of emotions. We see how each family member fights their own battles, against themselves and each other. We see them entangled with their pasts and get conflicted in their future: Patty rekindles a romance with her husband's old-time friend, Walter gets antagonized for working with a coal company, and Joey ends up getting married to a girl he doesn't really like at first. Walter and Patty also get a divorce. We see their loyalties and priorities change, too, something that's so human. Confusing, right?

Yet, despite all the twists and turns in this novel, one thing is for sure: It is going to make you realize a lot not only about how tricky familial relationships can be but also how complex the current society is. Here, relevant topics like the war, environmental issues, corruption, and even the emergence of media are also covered. You'll even see its parallelisms with America we know today.

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Mina Deocareza
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[Book Review] Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami


sputnik sweetheart haruki murakami

A friend of mine just told me how pissed she was upon reaching the end of this novel.

Another friend, on the other hand, said that she appreciated how realistic it was. She thought it was the most logical thing to happen, given the circumstances of the characters. And I am still left with mixed emotions.

Sputnik Sweetheart tells the story of Sumire, an aspiring writer who soon starts working for a married woman named Miu. She falls in love with this boss of hers, yet her love would remain unrequited. There is something peculiar about Miu, to begin with, and it obviously has a lot to do with why she just cannot be of interest. It's as if she has lost a part of herself, which began with a weird incident that took place years ago. In fact, it is revealed later on that she also has a very weird relationship with her husband.

Sumire and Miu go on a trip to Europe for business. They visit France and Italy. They also spend some time in Greece. A couple of days into their stay in the country, Sumire just disappears. The story is narrated from the point of view of a guy named K. He works as a teacher and is interested in Sumire.

Although I had already sensed from the very beginning that the novel wouldn't have a happy ending, I did not lose hope. Deep within me, there was a voice saying that Sumire would still show up and that Miu would give her a chance. I could even imagine them running away to some European town for good, where they could be happy.

Yet, a part of me kept saying that those imaginings were so foolish and unrealistic. Not all stories that involve love end happily, after all. So while this novel seems to have left a void in my heart, I cannot do anything but simply accept its sad and uncertain ending.

What matters, I guess, is that this novel has done for me as a person. It hasn't failed to teach me about the ephemeral joys and wonders brought by love and the people we choose to share our limited time and hearts with.

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Mina Deocareza
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