If you’re more of a leisurely reader that takes a few weeks to finish a book, I do not recommend reading Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. I tend to completely lose all sense of reality when I’m reading a book and typically finish within a week but I could see how this may be a difficult read for some. There is A LOT going on here; a lot of characters, character development and switching between time periods and settings. You really need to have tunnel vision when you pick this one up. With that being said, I enjoyed the storyline and thought the writing was well-done.
Commonwealth shows how betrayal, loyalty, love, and hatred can link two families together in unspoken ways. The Cousins family is made up of parents Bert and Teresa along with children Cal, Holly, Albie, and Jeanette. The Keating family is parents, Beverly and Fix with children Franny and Caroline following. We learn early on of Bert and Beverly’s affair that creates a kink in both family structures. The first few chapters (chapters in this book are VERY long) were hard to keep up with, especially since there are so many kids involved. I struggled at first to remember who was a Cousins and who was a Keating; which mom was actually married to which dad, who had the affair with each other and what children belonged to those parents. It was tough, guys. BUT once you get past the initial compartmental phase, it gets easier.
This book would often switch between present time and the past, catching us up to speed on what happened years ago. We learn early on that Fix is suffering from stage 4 cancer and his daughter Franny has arrived to help care for him. At this point, we get hints of what happened years prior between the two families, but we have not yet read about it. Throughout the time periods in this book, we learn what life was like when two families are broken up between two states on both sides of the country and how these family dynamics work (and don’t work) together.
I really enjoyed the writing in this book. Patchett kept you guessing the entire time. This isn’t a book that will come out in the first chapter and lay everything on the line for you. I was still figuring things out through the last page of the book. At times it seemed like you were thrown on a rollercoaster trying to keep up, but I promise everything is tied together full circle by the end. There were a lot of important life lessons this books offers us. One that I can relate to: death and heartbreak can bring us all together in odd and unusual ways. We see things differently when those close to us have passed and oftentimes, we lean on our other relationships to help see us through.
We also learn that mistakes can be forgiven even when it doesn’t seem possible. While those mistakes are forgiven we learn that love is recognizable again. We all make mistakes as family members, some are more forgivable than others and some sting just a little more. This book shows the importance of forgiveness and love among families. Life has pretty crazy twists and turns, some expected but most not. As a family, we all end up in different directions. Broken families and relationships can still mend back together with time but if they don’t, that is ok.
I enjoyed this book because it was easily relatable. We all go through difficult times and NO family is perfect. Unfortunately in today’s age, many families are considered “broken” due to divorce, death, or separation. It is because of this that we can all find some piece of light in this storyline. Life isn’t always diamonds and Rose’ (cue Lisa Vanderpump) and this book paints that imperfect picture of what real life for many people look like.