Published by HarperCollins on September 13th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Family Life, Coming of Age, Literary
Also by this author: State of Wonder
ARC provided by BEA 2016, HarperCollins
#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.
This story follows an epic family that has their story accidentally go public. COMMONWEALTH starts at the christening party for Franny. Bert invites himself to this party and kisses the mother, who is married to his cop colleague Fix. This act destroys two marriages but unites two families. Six kids grow up sharing summers and intersect through love and loss. Franny is the start and the end of this novel that covers a lifetime.
I had much emotion in reading this story. The siblings were perhaps my favorite part of this story. There are 4 kids from one marriage and 2 from the other. During the summers they leave their California homes and travel to Virginia to see their mother/father. They get into all kinds of things with little supervision, like walking from hotels to far off lakes by themselves. They also figure out ways to shrug off taking care of the baby of the family by giving him Benadryl which puts him to sleep. One summer the oldest child dies in a tragic accident, no one is ever the same after that.
The story jumps in time from that tragic summer, no details given, to all five children in their adulthood. This story actually spans 5 decades and it is a nice ride through the years. We get to see the parents in their old age coming to terms with what happened to them and how each child dealt with the divorce and the loss of a sibling. The time jumps were a bit shocking, but I was so wrapped up in these characters that it felt really good to see where they all ended up.
The one thing I will say is that a family tree would have helped. Without actually being in the author’s head I found all 10 characters hard to keep up with. It would have been so helpful to have a family tree, or a before and after family tree in the book somewhere to refer to. Much like a map, this would have helped me to get my bearings as I read through this family’s epic story.
I loved this book enough to want to read more from the author. The writing was a bit addictive. I loved that the writing focused more on locations and emotions then the way people or things looked. I am not sure how to explain it, but it felt more like a first person experience for me, even though the writing was all in third person. There also isn’t much to mark the years for this story. The current day events could have happened at any time in history or the present, so that makes this story a bit timeless. This was a fun read that I devoured in one day. I highly recommend it for readers who enjoy mature family stories.