Freedom IRL

When I recommended Freedom to my sister a couple years ago, in a post that proved to have a broader appeal than I thought it would, I only did so because it was about marriage. Caitlin was about to get married to her American boyfriend, and due to immigration law, would likely be a housewife for at least the first few months of her marriage. “American housewife” immediately brought Freedom‘s Patty Berglund to mind.

I’d completely forgotten that Freedom takes place in St. Paul, Minnesota, the very city Caitlin was moving too. She got around to reading it recently, and her contribution to Franzen in February is a Freedom-centric tour of St. Paul.

Ramsey Hill


Walter and Patty were the young pioneers of Ramsey Hill – the first college grads to buy a house on Barrier Street since the old heart of St. Paul had fallen on hard times three decades earlier.


If you’re one of those people who like to describe settings as being like a character, Ramsey Hill would be the main character here.





A bit more gentrified over here

Summit-Lexington Intersection


According to Blake, the morning’s KSTP weather forecast had been stupid, the Paulsens had put their recycling barrel in a stupid place, the seat-belt beeper in his truck was stupid not to shut off after sixty seconds, the commuters driving the speed limit on Summit Avenue were stupid, the stoplight at Summit and Lexington was stupidly timed…


What is going on with these signs? I don’t like it. Also, the Cathedral of St. Paul.


Macalester College

He got an Ivy League scholarship offer but instead went to Macalester, close enough to Hibbing to take a bus up on weekends and help his mom combat the motel’s encroaching decay (the dad apparently now had emphysema and was useless).

Fun fact: Marlon James teaches here

Fun fact: Marlon James teaches here

Central High School

It happened that one of the popular ninth-grade girls at Joey’s own school, Central High, had come home from a family trip to New York City with a cheap watch, widely admired at lunch hour.

Looks like a cheery place

Looks like a cheery place


Caitlin and I are indebted to this article, which appeared in a local paper just as Freedom was published. The author’s excitement at his hometown’s prominence in a novel is embarrassingly Canadian. There are a couple gems in the comments, too: “too much sex geez the guy needs an editor.” Yeah, yeah, we know.



  1. Stefanie

    I live in Minneapolis and had no idea Freedom took place in St Paul! I have not previously been all that interested in reading Franzen but now clearly I am going to have to read Freedom!

  2. Pingback: My First Franzen: Eff you and your flat female characters! (Freedom, 2010) | Reading in Bed

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