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One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating's christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny's mother, Beverly - thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.
Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.
When, in her 20s, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.
Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By J on 09-19-16
A Must Listen for Patchett fans
Ann Patchett has written a gem of a book- a pared down family saga that will live in my imagination for a long time. Commonwealth delivers segments of an arc, some overlapping, mostly out of order. Patchett trusts the reader to fill in the blanks, to intuit the shape of the whole. This is a novel about the power of story and the gravitational pull of family, and it packs a punch.
I have loved everything I've read by Patchett, especially her nonfiction collection This is the Story of a Happy Marriage ( read it twice- it's that good) but this is definitely my new fave! Tremendous storytelling, wonderful characters, and some of the most well timed humor I've ever read in a novel. A must listen!
32 of 38 people found this review helpful
By Mel on 09-18-16
Patchett and Me--In-sympatico
I have a thorny history with Patchett. The origin of my dislike of this good writer's books (many prestigious writing awards tell me so) began with me reading State of Wonder. I thought it repulsive and ridiculous--please don't hammer me for this honest opinion--I just found the visual of naked tribal octogenarians sucking sap from slits in the bark of trees grotesque, bizarre, highly nonsensical, and extremely off-putting. I'm midway between 80 and when I gave birth, and even if I had the desire to be pregnant and have an infant again, where would I get the energy? It wasn't my first Patchett novel; I'd read the very satisfying The Magician's Assistant and Bel Canto, before I got the glowing review that I just had to read SofW. That is where an OK relationship turned into UGH.
Patchett is a very good writer, even in my H opinion, and obviously can carry a story through--I finished every book of hers I started; continued on even when the arthritic, saggy breasted women of SofW started gnawing frenziedly on trees. After that, I swore off Patchett, but here I am again and all because I know Patchett can write beautifully. I was hoping for more early experiences with the author, and got them. Commonwealth immediately draws in the reader with an opening scene that feels choked with sensuality and brass. The next chapter begins to tell the consequences of that day when a Cousins stole a kiss from a Keating in the nursery
The story spans generations with a full cast that takes some skill to keep in order, especially because the story changes narrators, and with those changes, jumps times back then forward. This is a story of what if...how a single action can change the trajectory of lives and fortunes; in looking back what would we change and in the hopes of what kind of outcome.
Good meandering story that looks at lives through a modern and realistic lens, and poses moments that will be identifiable with any reader.
57 of 73 people found this review helpful