Tag Archives: Ann Patchett

Review: Commonwealth

Commonwealth

Commonwealth
By Ann Patchett
Harper, Hardcover, 9780062491794,September 2016, 336pp.

The Short of It:

This is a story about two families and how the actions of one night affect them for decades.

The Rest of It:

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. (Indiebound)

Reading has been really difficult for me these past couple of months so I was really excited when I finally sat down to Commonwealth. As tragic as a story like this could be,  it’s not. There’s some sadness but clearly, this is a family that loves each other and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know these characters. Plus, much of it is set in Southern California, which I loved. The story spans decades but never once did I lose interest.

I’m not sure if I will ever get around to posting my “best of” list this year but Commonwealth is definitely on it.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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Run, by Ann Patchett

I received my copy of Run, by Ann Patchett as part of Gayle’s online book club over at Everyday I Write The Book. Thank you Gayle! If you’d like to read some of the comments from the group, click here.

Now, on with the review. Here is the blurb from Barnes & Noble:

It’s a winter evening in Boston and the temperature has drastically dropped as a blizzard approaches the city. On this fateful night, Bernard Doyle plans to meet his two adopted sons, Tip the older, and more serious and Teddy, the affectionate dreamer, at a Harvard auditorium to hear a speech given by Jesse Jackson. Doyle, an Irish Catholic and former Boston mayor, has done his best to keep his two sons interested in politics, from the day he and his now deceased wife became their parents, through their childhoods, and now in their lives as college students. Though the two boys are African-American, the bonds of the family’s love have never been tested. But as the snow begins to fall, an accident triggers into motion a series of events that will forever change their lives.

The accident leaves Tip injured and an unknown women in critical condition. Shortly after the accident, they learn from the woman’s 11 year-old daughter, Kenya, that there is more to the story and that Kenya and her mother, have been keeping a secret for quite some time. This secret affects the Doyle’s in many ways and makes them question what’s important. As a result of the accident, they are all thrown together and forced to be around each other. This creates quite a bit of tension and awkwardness.

In my opinion, this is a story about family. It’s also a story about identity and acceptance. Tip and Teddy struggle with who they are and what they are expected to become. Doyle, their adopted father, wants the best for them but he wants very specific things. Teddy tries to do right by him in order to please him, but Tip wants to be his own person and refuses to give in to his father’s wants. Even Sullivan, Doyle’s biological son is at odds with who is is.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I enjoy character driven stories but I do not feel that these characters were fully developed and I was left wanting to know more about them. This was especially the case with the older brother, Sullivan. His is such a tragic story. When he was younger, he was involved in a car accident and his girlfriend was killed. Instead of offering support to his grieving son, Doyle convinces Sullivan to go along with the idea that the girlfriend was in fact behind the wheel, and not Sullivan. Being the Mayor at the time, Doyle felt compelled to protect his family in this way. However, that act ended up pushing his son away from him for good.

The relationship that Doyle has with all of his children is really quite sad. His expectations remain high and he never learns, even in crisis, the importance of self-worth. Yet even with all of his faults, you can sort of see why he wants each of his kids to live a certain way. I’m sure many parents want the best for their children but go about it the wrong way. That part is very realistic.

I should mention that much of this book is told within a 24 hour timeframe. This created a sense of “hurry” and gave it a claustrophobic feeling at times which further emphasized the frustration and angst between all of the characters. Although I felt the story could have gone a different way, overall I enjoyed the characters and would definitely read another book by Patchett. I just wish that some of the characters came away with more than what they started with.

Book Club Girl recently hosted a radio show with Ann Patchett. It’s a great interview and hearing what she had to say helped me understand the story a bit more. To check out the radio show, click here.