“Exquisite. . .Commonwealth is impossible to put down.” — New York Times
#1 New York Times Bestseller | NBCC Award Finalist | New York Times Best Book of the Year | USA Today Best Book | TIME Magazine Top 10 Selection | Oprah Favorite Book | New York Magazine Best Book of The Year
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.
Ann Patchett is the author of novels, most recently the #1 New York Times bestselling Tom Lake, works of nonfiction, and children's books. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the PEN/Faulkner, the Women's Prize in the U.K., and the Book Sense Book of the Year. Her novel The Dutch House was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. Time magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. President Biden awarded her the National Humanities Medal in recognition of her contributions to American culture. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is the owner of Parnassus Books. Visit her at annpatchett.com
Date of Birth:
December 2, 1963
Place of Birth:
Los Angeles, California
B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1985; M.F.A., University of Iowa, 1987
The children were seated across the aisle from one another, the boys on the left and the girls on the right, and each was given a set of junior airman wings, which only Cal refused to wear. They were glad to be on the plane, glad to be free of direct supervision for six hours. As much as they hated to leave their mother — they were unquestionably loyal to their mother — the four Cousins children thought of themselves as Virginians, even the youngest two, who had been born after the family's move west. All of the Cousins children hated California. They were sick of being shoved down the hallways of the Torrance Unified School District. They were sick of the bus that picked them up on the corner every morning, and sick of the bus driver who would not cut them a break, even thirty seconds, if they were made late by Albie's dawdling. They were sick of their mother, no matter how much they loved her, because she had on occasion cried when they returned to the house after missing the bus. Now she would be late for work. She went over it all again in the car as she drove them to school at terrifying speeds — she had to work, they couldn't live on what their father gave them, she couldn't afford to lose this job just because they weren't responsible enough to walk to the goddamn corner on time. They blocked her out by pinching Albie, whose screams filled the car like mustard gas. More than anything they were sick of Albie, who had spilled his Coke all over the place and was at this very moment kicking the seat in front of him on the plane. Everything that happened was his fault. But they were sick of Cal too. He got to wear the house key on a dirty string around his neck because their mother told him it was his job to get everybody home after school and make them a snack. Cal was sick of doing it, and on most days he locked his sisters and brother out for at least an hour so that he could watch the television shows that he wanted to watch and clear his head. There was a hose on the side of the house and shade beneath the carport. It wasn't like they were going to die. When their mother came home from work they met her at the door screaming about the tyranny of their situation. They lied about having done their homework, except for Holly, who always did her homework, sometimes sitting Indian-style under the carport with her books in her lap, because she lived for the positive reinforcement her teachers heaped on her. They were sick of Holly and the superiority of her good grades. Really, the only person they weren't sick of was Jeanette, and that was because they never thought about her. She had retreated into a silence that any parent would have asked a teacher or a pediatrician about had they noticed it, but no one noticed. Jeanette was sick of that.
They reclined their seats as far back as they could go. They asked for playing cards and ginger ale. They reveled in the sanctuary of an airplane which was for the time being neither in California nor Virginia, the only two places they had ever been in their lives.
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