Ann Patchett is the famous author of many super successful novels. Now she brings us her latest: COMMONWEALTH. It’s about families. Broken and mended families. And we can all relate to this in some way, shape, or form.
The novel begins on a baking hot summer day in Southern California. A young family is celebrating the christening of their second daughter, Franny. An uninvited guest crashes the party and changes the lives of two families forever more. The oversized bottle of vodka he brings along as a gift doesn’t help either.
Over five decades we come to know the children and the parents of the two families in a very intimate and knowing way. We follow them through divorce, then in some cases remarriage. We watch the teens as they seethe with anger at the parents they feel have betrayed all six of them. In the end the kids stick together and become closer as they become more estranged from the parents.
Secrets and lies bring tragedy. Tragedy that truth could have avoided. The two families are torn apart even as they are brought together. It happens one summer when the six of them are together in Virginia enjoying their childish adventures without the eyes of parents looking over their shoulders. They did “stuff” that no one knew about. Stuff that no one else ever knew. Bad stuff. Only the siblings knew the true story…until many years later…
As an adult Franny, whose party was the beginning of all this, becomes involved with a famous author 32 years her senior. She confides in him; tells him things that are her family secrets. And he does what he does best: writes a novel all about her family, baring their souls. You can almost tell where this is going…
There are readers who will have trouble keeping up with the constant changing POV. One reader defined the unusual chapters as peripatetic chronology. But Ron Charles, the fiction editor for The Washington Post, tells it like it is: chapters that are stand alone and are like short stories. I loved it.
STATE OF WONDER, took place in the Amazon rain forest and at times had me laughing so hard I was almost in tears. THE PATRON SAINT OF LIARS, won my heart many years ago. COMMONWEALTH, took me back to my own childhood. I remember one summer my father decided it would be a good idea to have me stay with him and his then-girlfriend. Well, unbeknownst to my mother, this girlfriend had children. They were both older than me. I could tell stories of that week… I can relate to blended families.
I can definitely see this book becoming a bookclub favorite this season. So much to talk about. Families, relationships, secrets, tragedy. It has all this and much more. I have the nice people at Harper Collins to thank for my review copy. As always, in exchange for an honest review. A great book!
We, at Copperfish Books, are so excited about COMMONWEALTH. We have several signed first editions of the book to offer at the store. Many of you probably know that Ann Patchett owns Parnassus Books in Nashville. What a great Indy bookstore with a real live famous author at the helm!