Thursday, October 20, 2016

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Summary from Amazon:
    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 twenties, 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.

My Thoughts:

     How can one little decision, one tiny thing, change the lives of so many people? One person showing up to a party, uninvited but welcome, shouldn’t cause that big of a problem, should it?
     Commonwealth isn’t a big drama filled soap opera about how a family was torn apart but it still draws you into the lives of the Keatings’ and the Cousins’.  Jumping back and forth between decades showing how divorce and blended families worked or didn’t the real story is told about how no one is ever really the same again. 
     At first, I was afraid that I would not be able to keep all the characters straight as the book starts out thrusting you right into a party with a lot of guests and stories.  This wasn’t the case though.  As you were reading Commonwealth you immediately become concerned for how this will all unfold after the disastrous christening party, especially the children.  The lives of the Keating and Cousins children are drastically altered and they all take very different paths.
     This is the first book by Ann Patchett that I have read and I must say that she is a very gifted writer.  She manages to pull you in without over dramatizing everything and without overly flower-y prose.  Honestly, most of the characters in this book are not great people and while I did not like them (except for Franny) and did care about what happened to them and hoped they found happiness. 

4/5 stars

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