“Exquisite. . .Commonwealth is impossible to put down.” — New York Times
#1 New York Times Bestseller | NBCC Award Finalist | New York Times Best Book of the Year | USA Today Best Book | TIME Magazine Top 10 Selection | Oprah Favorite Book | New York Magazine Best Book of The Year
The acclaimed, bestselling author—winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize—tells the enthralling story of how an unexpected romantic encounter irrevocably changes two families’ lives.
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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
An affair crushes two families and leads to a dramatic chain of events. Despite the heartbreak and trauma, we didn’t want Ann Patchett’s novel to end. Her writing is so inspired—and her characters so glitteringly real—that we sank deeply and effortlessly into the story. Stitching multiple plotlines together, Commonwealth is a powerful testament to family life’s potential for redemption and destruction.
Patchett (State of Wonder) draws from personal experience for a funny, sad, and ultimately heart-wrenching family portrait: a collage of parents, children, stepchildren, siblings, and stepsiblings. In 1960s California, lawyer Bert Cousins divorces Teresa, leaving her to raise their four children alone; Beverly Keating divorces Fix, an L.A. cop; and Bert and Beverly marry and relocate to Virginia with Beverly and Fix's two children. Visiting arrangements result in an angry, resentful younger generation rebellious Cal, frustrated Holly, practical Jeannette, littlest Albie, bossy Caroline, kind-hearted Franny spending part of summer vacations together. Left unsupervised, Cal takes charge, imitating grown-ups by drinking and carrying a gun, until a fatal accident puts an end to shared vacations. Patchett follows the surviving children into adulthood, focusing on Franny, who confides to novelist Leo Posen stories of her childhood, including the secret behind the accident. Twenty years after that conversation, middle-aged with children and stepchildren of their own, Franny and Caroline take 83-year-old Fix to see the movie version of Leo's novel about their family. Patchett elegantly manages a varied cast of characters as alliances and animosities ebb and flow, cross-country and over time. Scenes of Franny and Leo in the Hamptons and Holly and Teresa at a Zen meditation center show her at her peak in humor, humanity, and understanding people in challenging situations. What's more challenging, after all, than a family like the Commonwealth of Virginia, made up of separate entities bound together by chance and history?
Love Ann patchett!
Never really got going
I kept thinking “maybe this will get good if I stick with it” but it never really heated up. It was incredibly anticlimactic.
This book has appeared on several best of the year lists and although I enjoyed it I'm not sure I would put it at the top of my own list. Yes, there are a lot of characters and sometimes hard to remember who belongs to which family but they are all very real people. Some plot lines are more interesting than others and the ending drags a bit, but it is a good read. Be patient or start a list at the beginning with parents and kids.