Sunday, November 26, 2017

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

It all starts at a party in Los Angeles, California.  The Keatings are having a christening party for their younger daughter, Franny.  Everyone has come, a large contingent from the local Catholic church, tons of policemen who the dad, Fix Keating, works with, family members and even guys from the District Attorney's office.  It's a large party that spreads throughout the house and yard.  At the end of it, something has happened that will insure that things will never be the same.

Sometime during the party, Burt Cousins, a local D.A. meets Beverly Keating, the mother of the baby.  Sparks are apparent immediately and before the party is over, the two share a lingering kiss.  This kiss sparks a family tragedy as the two families are broken up.  Burt who has four children and Beverly, with her two girls, each divorce and they marry each other and move to Virginia.

There are now six children involved.  Over the years, they get to know each other and share summer vacations and irritation at their parents.  The novel follows each family over the decades.  Marriages come and go, there is a death that traumatizes everyone and the six children and their parents do a dance in which they come closer and then move farther apart, over and over.  When Franny is in her twenties she has an affair with a celebrated writer.  He takes the stories she has told him about her family and turns it into a successful novel that exposes all the family secrets and forms the basis of new relationships that are now built on truths long hidden.

Ann Patchett has a long history as a celebrated writer.  She has won both an Orange Prize for her novel Bel Canto and a PEN/Faulkner award.  Under her accomplished guidance, the reader learns about the Keating and Cousins families and how they are blended and torn asunder.  It is a paean to family and all the relationships that come from them.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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