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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!
31 of 37 people found this review helpful
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 72 people found this review helpful