Published September 2016 by HarperCollins
Well, I finally finished this book. If you've read it, will you please left me a comment so we can talk about that ending? For me, it was just so flat. Which would have been disappointing in any book, but especially so in a book that I had enjoyed so much right up to the point when I realized how Patchett was going to end the book.
"And how might you have ended the book, Miss Smartypants, who has never written a book, let alone won prizes for them," I hear you asking. I have no idea. Maybe Patchett didn't either? Yeah, I doubt that very much, too. So I'm left wondering what I missed.
Because otherwise, Commonwealth is filled with everything I've come to expect from Ann Patchett - complex characters, complicated relationships, a slow reveal that lends an air of mystery, and incredible writing.
“Caroline was a bitch by any standard, but she was also the one who had organized all the subversive acts of their childhood summers. She hated them all, especially her own sister, but Caroline got things done. When he thought of her cracking open the station wagon with a coat hanger and getting the gun out of the glove compartment, he shook his head. He had never in his life adored anyone the way he adored Caroline.”I know some people have had a problem with the structure of the book, but after some confusion because of a fifty year jump in time between the first and second chapters, I really didn't. It forced me to pay attention, recall characters and details from earlier (or even later) points in time. It allowed for Patchett to look at events and characters from varying perspectives.
Commonwealth is the story of a so-called blended family. At the christening party for one of the children, an affair begins that splits up two families. When that couple moves from California to Virginia, they take with them her two daughters but leave behind his four children. The only time the six spend together is a few weeks each summer when they are all together in Virginia (hence, the title). The children don't particularly care for each other (or their own siblings, for that matter) but they are united in their hatred of "the parents" and form an unlikely "fierce team."
When the family suffers a loss, and a marriage falls apart, the children drift apart, each with his or her own baggage and guilt. But there remains a tie that binds the children and their parents together for the rest of their lives. Watching them grow as people, fail and succeed, find their places in life and circle back to each other was like getting to know real people. Patchett helps readers to see the good and the bad in all of her characters, to see how their struggles form them, and to see how families interact in ways we don't always expect.