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Ann Patchett's Commonwealth

PatchettCommonAnn Patchett, award winning author of Bel Canto and State of Wonder, has written a fabulous new book, Commonwealth, that’s due out in mid-September. I couldn’t put down the advanced copy I received!

Patchett’s latest work is a captivating family saga that spans five decades. The story begins when Bert Cousins walks into a christening party for Beverly and Fix Keating’s second daughter, Franny. Bert enters carrying a large bottle of gin, and several gin and tonics later, he finds himself kissing the hostess. And soon courting her. Two messy divorces later, he marries her. Between them they have six children, and theirs is the story that carries the book. All six spend the summers together in the Commonwealth of Virginia, largely unsupervised. Much of their fun is innocent, but some of it turns deadly, leaving repercussions that will reverberate through the family for decades.

Years later, Franny, a waitress and law school dropout, falls in love with a much older man, author Leon Posen. Following the publication of several of his successful books, he has hit a severe case of writer’s block. Then Franny tells him the story or her torn apart and blended family. His next book, Commonwealth, is a huge success! He credits Franny as his muse, his inspiration. She is horrified that Commonwealth is a thinly veiled accounting of her childhood. Suddenly siblings and step siblings she hasn’t heard from in years are finding her, furious, demanding to know why she would air their dirty laundry in public.

Patchett’s storytelling is at its finest in this book. She has written a complex and realistic family saga that keeps the reader turning the pages, eager to see how the next relationship or drama will manifest itself. The subject matter is said to be drawn from the author’s past. Whether or not that is true, she writes compellingly realistic and fascinating characters.

I have liked Patchett’s books in the past, but I think Commonwealth is even better than her earlier works. It was a true pleasure to read, and I know will be great for book club discussions.


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