I have never read anything by Ann Patchett, though I had heard of Bel Canto. When I saw the description, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read Commonwealth: too many books on dysfunctional families are already on the market! But I am so glad I decided to give this one a try. I was able to experience what it is like to be in the hands of a literary master. Every time I picked this book up, I completely lost track of the world around me and fell deeply into the narrative of the story.
In brief: one stolen kiss at a Christening party in southern California has far-reaching consequences for two couples and their six children over a period of five decades, causing each of them to redefine the meaning of family.
The story is narrated mostly by Franny, the baby whose Christening starts the whole spiral of events. The book goes back in forth in time, and at times it can be challenging to keep track of all the characters – there are six step-siblings whose lives are deeply affected by that simple kiss. Two of the characters divorce their spouses and marry, causing two families to be blended, and not in the best way.
This book is kind of a challenge to review because so much happens to the characters, and I don’t want to give too much away. The author manages to tie up each story line in a way that is so very satisfying. The book follows each of the children as they grow up, some overcoming the damage done by their parents’ actions, others struggle their whole lives. I think that many readers will be able to relate to this novel who grew up in blended families. After reading a novel like Commonwealth it’s hard to go on to the next book in your TBR stack without comparing it to the wonder you have just read!