Commonwealth: a Novel
Author: Ann Patchett
Publisher: Harper Collins 2016
Genre: Literary Fiction
Hardcover Edition: 322 pages
Source: Library copy
At baby Franny’s christening party, her mother Beverly Keating begins an affair with an uninvited guest, Bert Cousins and thus begins a saga of two sets of parents and six children that spans five decades. Dissolutions of marriages, disillusionment of dreams and strange and hurtful episodes are wrapped in humor and heartbreak. This sounds like a story best avoided. And yet, the critics and the press in general continue to rave. It turns out with good reason.
Patchett is more magician than writer. Her scenes are both magic and near perfection. She drops us into different encounters between the characters at different points in their lives, and yet we understand and care about her characters until our reading hearts break for them.
She is the author of a number of books. Bel Canto is a classic mentioned by Jessica Best in her interview posted this past week. Critics and readers love her work. It is hard to believe that even Bel Canto is as good as this book. Family lost and family shared. Never have I read a finer story of a family though I love Jane Smiley’s work. Always, Patchett shows compassion and humanity for her characters and their circumstances.
The story seems a miraculous creation. Oh, I already said that, didn’t I. I guess because there is so little venom and so much love and caring while remaining realistic. I couldn’t stop reading because I cared so much about the people she created. Yes, I had my favorites and at least one unfavorite and yet, they all fit together like pieces of a puzzle, which of course is what families so often are: a picture puzzle, sometimes broken.