Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf: Ann Patchett

By Lynn Willoughby

Commonwealth  –  Ann Patchett

This novel explores the marriages, the lives of two families living in Los Angeles.  We discover how a chance encounter unravels many lives.  “It is a story about people’s stories.”
Mainly this is the story of six children from divorced parents who spend summers together in Virginia.
While one would think they would blame their parents for this arrangement, which they all hate, the children actually develop a strange affection for each other and a common disillusionment with their parents.
The book spans five decades and we see them as children, as teens, as young adults.  But when Franny begins an affair with a well-known author, she eventually tells him about her family.  And once he publishes the book, their family stories are no longer theirs – they are out there for all to see.  What the book does though, is make each of the people – children and parents, confront their guilt, their losses, the regret over what might have been.  It also makes them realize that they actually like each other – the broken marriages, death, illness, desperate lives, adult children and everything else a family must deal with in fifty years.
Every family has its share of secrets but when you add in a blended family, affairs, births, unsupervised children, summer holidays – it becomes complicated.  And when it is all published in a book for the world to read, no one is happy.
Is this my favourite Patchett book?  No, but it does send one down memory lane.
– Bel Canto
– The Magician’s Assistant
and many others

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