Author: Ann Patchett
Published: September 2016
Summary: Two families are forever changed when Beverly Keating and Albert Cousins meet at Franny Keating’s christening. The book follows the lives of the Cousins and Keatings after that fateful day.
My Thoughts: This book was beautiful. This was my first time reading a book by Ann Patchett, but she did not fail to live up to the well-deserved hype she has as an author. The writing is so fantastic and natural that it fades away and you forget there is an author to this story. It really feels like you are present to witness the lives of these characters. This isn’t the type of story that is a page-turner because you are dying to see what happens, but rather this is subtle prose that compels you to return to it because you become invested in the daily minutiae of this family. The structure of the book is jumping from a few characters’ perspectives and moving along a non-linear timeline. It took a few moments to orient myself to who was narrating and what time in their lives this particular passage is set. This story is a really poignant portrait of a family, who was shaped by a singular decision their parents’ made. It made me very aware of how fleeting life is and how precious the family you have is, regardless of the shape they come in.
Book Club Discussion: This was hands down the most liked book of the year. Every single one of us enjoyed Patchett’s writing and the story of this family. We all anticipated this book to go down a sinister path, but were pleased (although I am not sure that is an apt description given the circumstance) to learn that this story continued to capture relatable life circumstances to the end. This was the most robust conversation we had about a book, because it makes you consider your own life and your place within your family. We ended up going on a bit of a tangent discussing The Glass Castle because both my oldest sister and I just recently read this story and couldn’t help but notice some similarities to Commonwealth. The way the kids were sort of neglected and left to rely on each other for companionship and day-to-day activities. We enjoyed how you get to experience all different types of stories through the various ways each member of this family lived their lives. It was almost as if there were stories within stories. This was a great book and one that would serve well in a book club setting because you will want to discuss it. Patchett’s thoughtful writing will make you more contemplative and lead you to reflecting on your own life.
Next Month’s Pick: The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson