Commonwealth is the senseless breaking of a perfectly nice mason jar, and then pausing, for hours, to inspect all the differently-shaped glittery pieces left. on the tile floor. I felt every sharp edge and ruined curve. Patchett’s found a style and narrative that embraces her completely.
— Kerri McNair
Commonwealth reels you in from the first sentence.
Don’t begin reading it on your front porch on a balmy southern day with a gentle rustling of leaves in the pecans while neighbors walk by and dogs bark and children call to each other in the distance like I did. Or you might find yourself pondering the import of those first twelve words ("The christening party took a turn when Albert Cousins arrived with gin") for an hour, caught up in their possibility, before you can even move on to the rest of the first paragraph. You sense the weight of what is coming and, yes, it does.
This was my introduction to Ann Patchett and I wasn’t prepared for the way she makes a good story poignant and real and personal with her keen observations of everyday gestures and occurrences.
I am now officially a convert to contemporary fiction.
The humanity of the everyday men and women and children in this book, made more complicated because they are related, will move you. The structure of it, with each chapter telling the story of a family through the lens of one its members at various times in their history, isn’t clever--it’s perfection.
This quiet but riveting tale feels honest and was a pleasure to read.
— Barbette Houser
“Exquisite... Commonwealthis impossible to put down.” — New York Times
#1 New York Times Bestseller | NBCC Award Finalist | New York Times Best Book of the Year | USA Today Best Book | TIME Magazine Top 10 Selection | Oprah Favorite Book of 2016 | New York Magazine Best Book of The Year
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.
About the Author
ANN PATCHETT is the author of seven novels, The Patron Saint of Liars, Taft, The Magician’s Assistant, Bel Canto, Run, State of Wonder, and Commonwealth. She was the editor of Best American Short Stories, 2006, and has written three books of nonfiction, Truth & Beauty, about her friendship with the writer, Lucy Grealy, What now? an expansion of her graduation address at Sarah Lawrence College, and, most recently, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, a collection of essays.
Praise for Commonwealth: “Patchett brings humanity, humor, and a disarming affection to lovable, struggling characters... Irresistible.” — Library Journal
“Exquisite... Commonwealth is impossible to put down.” — New York Times
“(A) rich and engrossing new novel …” — New York Times Book Review
“Indeed, this is Patchett’s most autobiographical novel, a sharply funny, chilling, entrancing, and profoundly affecting look into one family’s “commonwealth,” its shared affinities, conflicts, loss, and love.” — Booklist
“…a funny, sad, and ultimately heart-wrenching family portrait…Patchett elegantly manages a varied cast of characters…[Patchett is] at her peak in humor, humanity, and understanding people in challenging situations.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The prose is lean and inviting…A satisfying meat-and-potatoes domestic novel from one of our finest writers.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Wonderfully executed…” — Marie Claire
“Commonwealth is a smart, thoughtful novel about the ties that bind us.” — Pop Sugar
“Commonwealth is an all-American family saga, but her touching and even-handed approach to themes such as family politics, love, the role of literature and the acidic nature of lies is buoyed by a generous sprinkling of matter-of-fact humor” — BookPage
“Commonwealth bursts with keen insights into faithfulness, memory and mortality… [An] ambitious American epic…” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Patchett’s storytelling has never seemed more effortlessly graceful. This is minimalism that magically speaks volumes…” — Washington Post
“Commonwealth represents yet another victory for Patchett. Readers will fly through it... the tale is so rich and the plot is so wildly addicting, readers won’t be able to put it down until they’ve turned the final page.” — Hampton Sheet
“The genius of the way Patchett approached Commonwealth is that it’s constructed like a puzzle… Maybe it’s another case of the tried-and-true adage: “Write what you know.” Because this book? It’s pure gangbusters.” — San Francisco Chronicle
“Commonwealth is a sly book about storytelling, a story about a single incident - really two pivotal incidents - spun out over the length of a narrative constructed like a conversation but encompassing decades.” — Kansas City Star
“splendid new novel… Just try to stop reading. And you won’t want to. Patchett is in stellar form.” — USA Today
“… the emotional intelligence of Patchett’s storytelling here feels warmer and richer and more resonant than anything she’s done before.” Rating: A — Entertainment Weekly
“Patchett gives us funny, flawed characters, and the rich reward of Commonwealth is seeing their lives unfold…” — Houston Chronicle
“a wry, compassionate tale” — Christian Science Monitor
“…to create a story with 10 protagonists that spans 50 years - and at least five settings spread across the globe - is a balancing act that requires immense narrative skill, and Patchett never falters.” — Knoxville News-Sentinel
“Reading Commonwealth is a transporting experience… It feels like Patchett’s most intimate novel and is without doubt one of her best.” — Los Angeles Times
“Wonderful… Patchett is a master storyteller” — O, the Oprah Magazine
“Spinning ordinary lives into literary gold” — Seattle Times
“[A] memorable, modern novel” — Flavorwire
“Ann Patchett’s gifts are more clear than ever in Commonwealth” — Dallas Morning News