Author: Ann Patchett
I’m going to state the obvious: this book has been on my TBR list since it was published *cue the eye rolls*. I LOVE Ann Patchett’s novels. She’s a phenomenal story teller; she has the ability to eloquently write about relatively mundane scenarios and captivate readers like no other. Her novels Bel Canto and State of Wonder both fall into my TOP FIVE favorite books of all time (no exaggeration). Therefore, when Commonwealth appeared on the NYT Best Sellers list in 2016, I knew I had to read it.
Admittedly, I wasn’t drawn in by the synopsis printed on inside of the front cover. I picked up Commonwealth several times in bookstores, read the synopsis, and put it back down knowing that I would get to it eventually. After reading the book, I now understand why the synopsis isn’t magnetizing – Patchett doesn’t want to give anything away. The characters develop in unpredictable ways and it’s hard to explain why the story is so great without spoiling the story.
Synopsis (no spoilers):
PSA: Even if this synopsis doesn’t make you want to read the book, give it a shot. Patchett’s writing is outstanding and it’s no wonder that she’s published a number of best selling books and received several awards.
I’ll break down the family tree for you:
- Fix Keating is married to Beverly and they have two daughters, Caroline and Frances (Fanny).
- Bert Cousins is married to Theresa and they have four children: Calvin (Cal), Holly, Jeanette and Albie.
Without giving too much away, I will tell you is that the story starts off at Fanny’s christening. The family is celebrating when Bert Cousin’s, uninvited, shows up. Fix Keating, a cop, has never been friendly with Bert who works in the district attorney’s office. Fix knows that he’s surrounded by loved ones and lot of cops who have his back and brushes off the annoying arrival.
Bert finds himself wandering the party questioning why he even went in the first place until he finds Beverly making screwdrivers in the kitchen. Bert brought the gin, and wasn’t easily making conversation with anyone at the party, so he started helping Beverly by squeezing fresh juice from oranges. He’s captivated by Beverly’s beauty and finds himself kissing her soon after.
There’s a divorce and, subsequently, a blending of families. The six children spend summers together at the Cousin’s house in Virginia. The story is basically about the aftermath of the incident at the christening.
What I Liked:
Patchett did not disappoint me with this book; the writing is as eloquent as her others. The characters were interesting and well developed. There’s drama, death, friendship and reminiscent summer fun, a perfect equation for a great book. The bond formed between the six children is enrapturing; they are all pissed off at their parents and band together every summer.
I also enjoyed the later chapters, in which a lot of time has passed and the children have grown and created their own families. The bond between the siblings has matured and evolved, but has not faltered. When finishing a book, there’s usually a slight wonder of what happened after the last page. Commonwealth doesn’t leave any unanswered questions and you’re left feeling a titillating mix of emotions: sorrow, nostalgia, bliss, contentment and satisfaction.
What I Didn’t Like:
There wasn’t much I didn’t like about Commonwealth. Scrambling to find something, I would say that it’s hard to keep track of all the people and figure which family they fit into in the beginning. However, as you read and relate to the characters the confusion dissipates entirely.
My Next Read:
FINALLY – Into the Water by Paula Hawkins