Literary Hub

30 Books in 30 Days: Commonwealth

 In the 30 Books in 30 Days series leading up to the March 16 announcement of the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award winners, NBCC board members review the 30 finalists. Today, NBCC board member Jane Ciabattari offers an appreciation of fiction finalist Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth (Harper).

Ann Patchett’s beguiling new novel begins in a Southern California suburb where Fix and Beverly Keating are hosting a christening party for their second daughter Franny. A deputy district attorney named Bert Cousins crashes the party. He has business with the Fix, a Los Angeles police officer, and also wants some time free from his brood of three children and pregnant wife. Bert doesn’t come empty handed; he shows up with a bottle of gin. After several boozy hours, Bert impulsively kisses Beverly, and many lives begin to unravel.

Two marriages end, and six step-siblings are left unmoored. At first they shuttle between parents, gathering for summers in Virginia. Then one vacation adventure leads to tragedy, and one son’s death. Everyone in the blended family carries this scar forward, but for the children it’s particularly painful because of the secrets they share. In a seamless, vibrant narrative Patchett reveals the consequences of an impulsive act over five decades. In her mid-twenties Franny shares the story of her family’s tragedy with her lover, Leo Posen, an award-winning author. He appropriates her tale for a novel, which ultimately becomes a film seen by most of the family members.

Betrayals, forgiveness and the shifting intensities of family connections are at the heart of this brilliantly structured and riveting novel—a book Patchett, winner of the Orange Prize for Bel Canto, has called her most autobiographical yet.

Originally published in Literary Hub.

Related Interests

Más de Literary Hub

Literary Hub6 min leídos
Why I Turned From Writing Romantic Comedies to Thrillers
There’s something Paula Hawkins and I have in common. Actually, there are several things—we are both female, British and in our forties—but, for the purpose of this article, our main similarity is that we both cut our writing teeth on romantic comedi
Literary Hub2 min leídos
The 2017 National Book Award Winners Announced
Last night, the National Book Foundation announced its winners of National Book Awards in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people’s literature in New York City at a ceremony hosted by Cynthia Nixon. Each winner will be awarded $10,000, and each
Literary Hub10 min leídosSociety
How Forgotten Trailblazer Marjorie Hillis Helped Women Live Alone
Long before I read Virginia Woolf’s manifesto, my dreams of the future were creative and solitary. I had no fantasies about my wedding day, only about my writing place: a little garret overlooking some scenic rooftops, precise location to be determin