by Ann Patchett

Overview -

#1 New York Times Bestseller

The acclaimed, bestselling author--winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize--tells the enthralling story of how an unexpected romantic encounter irrevocably changes two families' lives.  Read more...

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More About Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

#1 New York Times Bestseller

The acclaimed, bestselling author--winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize--tells the enthralling story of how an unexpected romantic encounter irrevocably changes two families' lives.

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.

Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.

  • ISBN-13: 9780062491831
  • ISBN-10: 0062491830
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • Publish Date: May 2017
  • Page Count: 336
  • Dimensions: 8 x 5.38 x 0.88 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.55 pounds

Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Family Life - General
Books > Fiction > Coming of Age
Books > Fiction > Literary

BookPage Reviews

Book clubs: The mother lode

The Nix, Nathan Hill’s smart, darkly humorous debut, is the tale of Samuel Andresen-Anderson, an unmotivated English professor who was once a successful writer. Samuel’s mother, Faye, walked out on the family when he was a kid, and he hasn’t seen her since. When she’s charged with a surprising crime involving a politician—an act that attracts the attention of the national media—Samuel is more than a little surprised. Portrayed as a revolutionary, the Faye of today is nothing like the conventional woman he knew years ago. Samuel’s life takes an unexpected turn after he decides to help his mother—a choice he hopes will result in material for a new book. As he delves into Faye’s background and finds out more about her, he comes to realize that he never really knew her at all. Hill navigates between the past and the present with skill, presenting scenes from Faye’s life in the 1960s that are richly authentic. This is a timely, resonant novel from a writer on the rise.

Commonwealth has it all—a compelling plot, convincing characters and an insightful approach to story­telling. Spanning 50 years, Ann Patchett’s poignant exploration of family relationships opens in the 1960s, at a party in California, where Bert Cousins—drunk and dauntless—breaks up the marriage of Beverly Keating. The two go on to tie the knot and settle in Virginia, forcing their combined group of six stepkids into a new living situation. Patchett chronicles the ways in which the domestic reconfiguration influences family members, including Beverly’s daughter, Franny. When Franny shares the story of her early years with her lover, the novelist Leon Posen, he uses it as the foundation for his new book—a runaway hit that makes the family face up to its past. This exploration of the risks of romance and the consequences of rash acts makes for a captivating read. With this novel—her seventh and most autobiographical—Patchett continues to prove that she’s one of the best writers working today.

One of the most acclaimed debuts of 2016, Yaa Gyasi’s ­Homegoing is a powerful novel that chronicles the lives of Effia and Esi, two lovely half-sisters who aren’t aware of one another, and whose fates in 1700s Ghana are drastically different. Effia is sold by her father to British governor James Collins, who takes her to a castle where she leads a comfortable life. Esi, meanwhile, is kept in the castle’s dismal dungeon waiting to be shipped as a slave to the New World. The contrast between the women’s lives creates a compelling reading experience. As the novel progresses, Gyasi introduces new generations of the sisters’ families, working up to modern-day Harlem. Demonstrating remarkable facility as a writer, she shifts scenes and eras with ease. This is an important debut that will provide book clubs with plenty of talking points.

This article was originally published in the May 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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