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 Goodreads.com) –

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.

 

 

I love the Fall and my 2016 Fall TBR

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It’s mid-September and the cool breeze of autumn started to settle amongst the crevices of the city. Soon it will be so cold you need several layers to sit comfortably in your home before the landlord decides to turn on the heat.

Fall must be the designated season for reading. It must have something to do with going back to school and opening new notebooks and fresh pens and buying books for class. It might have something to do with the cool weather and cuddling in close with a good read.

I thought I would prepare myself for the cozy comforts of Fall with a few books to nourish my heart and my mind. I’ve never planned out the books I’ll be reading and I know I won’t be reading all the new books that just released because I’m always behind with what’s trendy (in my book life and my real life). So here’s a quick list of some of the books that sound interesting to me and I’d love to read this Fall:

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoingtraces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indelibly drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.

Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson

29429875Mara Wilson has always felt a little young and a little out of place: as the only child on a film set full of adults, the first daughter in a house full of boys, the sole clinically depressed member of the cheerleading squad, a valley girl in New York and a neurotic in California, and one of the few former child actors who has never been in jail or rehab. Tackling everything from how she first learned about sex on the set of Melrose Place, to losing her mother at a young age, to getting her first kiss (or was it kisses?) on a celebrity canoe trip, to not being “cute” enough to make it in Hollywood, these essays tell the story of one young woman’s journey from accidental fame to relative (but happy) obscurity. But they also illuminate a universal struggle: learning to accept yourself, and figuring out who you are and where you belong. Exquisitely crafted, revelatory, and full of the crack comic timing that has made Mara Wilson a sought-after live storyteller and Twitter star, Where Am I Now?introduces a witty, perceptive, and refreshingly candid new literary voice.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Running into a long-ago friend sets memories from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them.

But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion.

32 Yolks by Eric Ripert

25937923Before he earned three Michelin stars at Le Bernardin, won the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Chef, or became a regular guest judge on Bravo’s Top Chef, and even before he knew how to make a proper omelet, Eric Ripert was a young boy in the South of France who felt that his world had come to an end. The only place Eric felt at home was in the kitchen. His desire to not only cook, but to become the best would lead him into some of the most celebrated and demanding restaurants in Paris.

 

 

 

Shrill by Lindy West

From a painfully shy childhood in which she tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her big body and even bigger opinions; to her public war with stand-up comedians over rape jokes; to her struggle to convince herself, and then the world, that fat people have value; to her accidental activism and never-ending battle royale with Internet trolls, Lindy narrates her life with a blend of humor and pathos that manages to make a trip to the abortion clinic funny and wring tears out of a story about diarrhea.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

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.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

22299763Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.

 

Swear on this Life by Renee Carlino

When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J.Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.

Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.

I wonder if within the three months of Fall I’ll be able to read all of these. Will I give up at some point? Will I want to move something to the next season? Will I end up reading another book from my endlessly growing pile of novels? I think it’ll be interesting to see what I end up reading even if I planned it all out ahead of time. I guess my interest in a book just comes with my mood (who would have thought?)

I do know that I will be enjoying the cool breeze and a warm cup of tea as I go through these. What does your Fall look like?