commonwealth book coverReviewed by Meredith Kelly

“All life is linked together in such a way that no part of the chain is unimportant. Frequently, upon the actions of some of these minute beings depends the material success or failure of a great Commonwealth”.

So begins the story of two families, The Keatings’ and The Cousins’ who inadvertently come together because of a stolen kiss. The combined family has six children–two girls by the mother, and two girls and two boys by the father, all within a relatively narrow age range.

Commonwealth is a saga which spans over fifty years of the trials and tribulations of this blended family. I particularly like books in this format which tell the story from beginning to end. In particular, I enjoyed the realism that showed the “group” as a family as well as individuals. The family was hardly a perfect unit but after the initial surprise of being combined, most of the children at least started to like one another, and played a meaningful role in each others lives, even after being away from one another for many years.

Ann Patchett’s words were almost lyrical: “If her mother hadn’t been so pretty none of it would have happened, but being pretty was nothing to blame her for.” It was this type of verbiage which made reading this book a lovely experience. In addition, I found meaningful insight reflected about how a complex family works and interacts together. The mother and father were portrayed as loving but distant from their children and because of this, a great tragedy befalls the family with serious and lasting consequences.

I read that this book was semi-autobiographical and believe this was the first time in her many books that Patchett has allowed others into her own personal experiences.

At the time of this review I noted Commonwealth was moving quickly up many bestseller lists and in my opinion this is deservedly so.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a relaxing, interesting read, with accomplished writing, good humor and an interesting story line.

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Meredith has been an avid reader since childhood and loves to talk about books. A bit of a Luddite, she has only recently become acquainted with E-Reading and online book reviews. She finds exposure to such a wide audience of opinion on books fascinating.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.