A Novel

Book - 2016
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#1 New York Times Bestseller

The acclaimed, bestselling author--winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize--tells the enthralling story of how an unexpected romantic encounter irrevocably changes two families' lives.

One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating's christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny's mother, Beverly--thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.

When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.

Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.

Publisher: New York, New York :, Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers,, ©2016.
ISBN: 9780062491794
Branch Call Number: FICTION PAT
Characteristics: 322 pages ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

List - Sweeping Family Sagas
Liesel_C Jan 17, 2018

It all began when Bert Cousins kissed Beverly Keating. This sweeping novel spanning five decades explores the dynamics of blended families after the kiss leads to an affair that destroys two marriages. It tells the story of the six children whose lives were disrupted and how they intertwined and ... Read More »

List - Familial Fiction
Jessica_c Mar 17, 2017

A blended family must face the reality of their history after one of the children's lovers published a wildly successful novel based on their lives.

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Oct 10, 2018

As the number of pages left to read dwindled I realized I wanted to slow my reading because I would miss the characters Franny and Caroline so much. It is a big story with many characters leading complicated lives. Children deal with divorce, separation from a parent moved from the home they knew. Parents and children struggle with relationships. In the end I felt none of them did anything wrong. They lived life. Ann Patchett's writing engages the reader.

Jul 02, 2018

Patchett's stories are rich and layered. Always such a satisfying read!

Feb 26, 2018

Enjoyed this book. In spite of a horrendous childhood, the 6 children turned out OK, mostly. The happy families you see on TV are not so common in real life.

Nov 21, 2017

The first chapter of this book sets the scene for everything that comes after it. It involves a bottle of gin brought to a Christening party, the resulting morality meltdown of the party guests and ultimately a forbidden kiss which changes the lives of two families. Afterwards, each chapter jumps ahead by decades and we follow the lives of these family members and their relationships with each other over time. I thought this was a great look at family life and how family members have the power to knock each other down and then turn around and save each other.

Nov 07, 2017

COMMONWEALTH refers to the state of Virginia where much of this novel’s action takes place, but COMMONWEALTH is also the name of a book within the book which traces the ripple effects of infidelity, divorce, and remarriage on the lives of the couple involved, their wronged spouses, as well as their respective children over a 50-year period. COMMONWEALTH is an astute commentary on today’s blended family, and is perhaps inspired by author Ann Patchett’s own life experiences. “Father Knows Best”, “Make Room for Daddy”, or “Donna Reed” it definitely is not. COMMONWEALTH is best consumed in concentrated chunks. Although an easy read, due to the many characters and episodic plot structure, this is not the kind of book one can put down for several days, then easily resume. I would recommend keeping a list of characters as they are introduced - it will save a lot of time keeping track of who is who and their relationships later on in the story.

Sep 06, 2017

The story starts with a christening where an uninvited guest changes the history of two families. The novel weaves around marriage breakdown, divorce, step children and step siblings. Three husbands, three wives, and six children are interspersed in each other's lives. One of the children, Franny, falls in love with legendary novelist, Leo Posen and slowly her life story becomes the plot of his novel and ends up being a bestseller and a movie. The plot of our book is intriguing and poignant. Definitely worth a read.

Sep 03, 2017

I should have done as another reader did, and made a list of the characters, their characteristics, and their relationships. Even reading the book in two days, I had trouble keeping track of them. I never had this problem with "Bel Canto." Like the six children, I had difficulties forgiving the parents and step parents for what felt like their huge selfishness. None seem to think about the consequences of their behavior for their kids. The book is necessarily episodic, covering 50 years. Sometimes the holes this leaves in the story left me saying, "What happened?" Many episodes are wonderful, beautifully written even when I didn't get how it fit until something years later explained it. I especially liked Franny, whose christening party begins the book, and whose reluctant attendance at a Christmas party closes it. An interesting book, just not Patchett's best.

Aug 23, 2017

A solid book that follows 2 families over 2 generations, and how their lives intertwine.

ArapahoeJane Aug 21, 2017

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read with many characters and relationships explored. I will definitely look for other Ann Patchett books to read.

Jul 27, 2017

Although I needed to keep track of characters on a scrap of paper stuck in the book, I let myself fall into the story, trusting, knowing I was in Patchett’s masterful hands. (Loved her Bel Canto.) This story is all about character as they explore the drama of chaotic, ordinary life. The plot is a series of vignettes strung together through their differing perspectives, and is partly a metafiction when the family reads the book (called Commonwealth) written about their own family that is made into a movie. Gluing it altogether is Patchett’s clever insight and subtle wit into the family’s “commonwealth” – their “general good.”

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ArapahoeMaryA Jan 18, 2017

Franny gave her sister a tired smile. "Oh, my love," she said. "What do the only children do?"

"Half the things in this life I wish I could remember and the other half I wish I could forget."

"All the stories go with you, Franny thought, closing her eyes. All the things I didn’t listen to, won’t remember, never got right, wasn’t around for.

“Isn’t that what everyone wants, just for a moment to be unencumbered?

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