‘Commonwealth’ is Ann Patchett’s sixth novel, published in 2016. It is however, the first book of hers that I’ve read. I had started reading early last year ‘State Of Wonder’ but it was progressing so slowly, I had to put it aside. Now I think I might give it a second shot. I kept seeing this book everywhere, on all the book review/recommendation sites I frequent as well seeing Ann Patchett’s name and you know I’m a sucker for stories about big families like in Ghana Must Go and And After Many Days and even better are stories spanning decades like Homegoing. All of which ‘Commonwealth’ is.
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.
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.
Commonwealth is a tale of family spanning over 50 years. It follows the lives of the Keating-Cousins jumping back and forth in time like you imagine a movie would. We see how the six kids are forced together by the actions of their parents and how, although reluctantly at first, they forge a bond, make their own ‘commonwealth’ so to speak. It also explores how tragedy and betrayal affect family relationships and how flawed and fragile human love can be.
My favorite character hands down would have to be Fix Keating. He exemplifies taking life’s lemons and making lemonade and his absolute presence in the lives of his children regardless of what life brought his way is worth mentioning. Sometimes the time jumping gets a bit confusing and you have stop to find your bearings, but I think that’s part of what makes the book exciting. I read this book in about three days; the last day, literally not moving for three hours straight, just reveling in the unfolding of this story.
I definitely feel more appreciative of my family after reading this, because you know, time changes things. Also, how important it is to be in control of your story, your life and the way your story gets to be told (if you want it to be) cannot be overemphasized.
Fix was starting to see that this was the way life worked once you got older and the kids came; there wasn’t as much time as you thought there was going to be.
It was a crime what time did to women.
What you have to remember about your mother is that she didn’t have her own character. She turned into whoever she was sitting next to.
Age arrived at different rates of speed, in different ways.
For the vast majority of the people on this planet, the thing that’s going to kill them is already on the inside.
“Did you ever want to be a writer?” “No” she said, and she would have told him. I only wanted to be a reader”.
As a feminist, Franny had to ask herself why it was she’d made dinner for Leo and Eric on Thursday night without ever expecting that they would offer to help her, but that when Marisol came out from the city the next day in her embroidered linen tunic and red linen scarf, and sat down on the screened-in porch and said what she could really use was a glass of white wine, a nice chablis if they had it, Franny felt a little ping, like someone had just shot her in the neck with a rubber band.
“If you want to find the person who did it, you have to ask the same questions over and over again”
Americans love the idea of vaccinating Africans. What could be nicer than a photograph of dusty little Nigerian children lined up for inoculation on the front page of the New York Times? But for their own children the mothers of New York City find vaccinations passe.
Cancer really was the devil’s handshake.
I’d recommend this book to everyone! A five star page-turner in my opinion.