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.
My Takeaway – Short & Sweet!
“He realized then what he had known from the first minute he saw her, from when she leaned out the kitchen door and called for her husband. This was the start of his life.”
Ann Patchett, Commonwealth
Although I’m aware of Ann Patchett’s work, Commonwealth is the first novel I have read by her. Clearly my bad. Patchett is a phenomenal writer and storyteller. She weaves the tangled lives of the Cousins and Keating family in a fascinating manner (I was hooked from the beginning). The story takes place over five decades and deals with the blended family’s six children’s drama, losses, and frustrations. Yes, the siblings all have extremely complicated relationships with each other and their loved ones, but as a reader, you understand why. I enjoyed the complexities of the characters and felt they were all very human and flawed. I think this book would make a great selection for discussion in a book club. Meanwhile, I look forward to reading more of Patchett’s work.