Commonwealth by Ann Patchett – Book Review

28214365 A story about how the decisions you make for yourself can trigger effects across everyone you love.

Synopsis (from –

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.

Rating: 4/5 stars

My thoughts – Have you ever considered if the decisions you make for yourself somehow effect the people around you? Thinking that way would probably put you on eggshells for the rest of your life. For the most part, we all do what makes us happy. It’s what we’re taught when we’re young. But what happens when what makes you happy makes everyone miserable?

In Commonwealth, Ann Patchett explores what happens when you do. After Bert and Beverly kiss at Franny’s christening party, it ends up setting off a chain reaction of events. First, they get divorced from their former lovers and then get married. Then, they move to Virginia causing their kids to shuttle between the West Coast and the East Coast every summer. The cause of all these events leads to their children hating them.

And perhaps you can say that the events that happened to them as they spent their summers in Virginia was the catalyst for the rest of their life. Ann Patchett took a lot of time to really bring out these characters. Since there are six kids between Beverly and Bert as well as their exes, there’s a lot of ground to cover. While I did love the character development, I feel like the plot of the story suffered a little bit from it. It’s why I didn’t give it that last star.

However, the story idea is intriguing and what really made me think after I put the book down. What have I done in my life that might have affected the life of someone else? I think we all do things with the best of intentions and in some place somewhere far away there’s someone who is affected by it.

An example I can think of is my day job. If I were to leave, what would happen to the people I work with? Yes, they’ll be fine, but they’ll also have another manager and perhaps they may consider their own careers. For better or worse. It’s difficult to be selfish, but sometimes life requires you to be selfish. Sometimes you just need to be selfish to be happy because your current situation makes you miserable.

I think what you need to remember is that even though you’re making decisions for yourself, others may also be along for that ride. If that’s the case, take a moment to remember them. Empathize with their feelings, get their opinions, and if you do go ahead with your plans, never leave them out. You may never know what may happen to them down the line.



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