by Ann Patchett


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#1 New York Times Bestseller

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594689423
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/13/2016
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

ANN PATCHETT is the author of seven novels, The Patron Saint of Liars, Taft, The Magician’s Assistant, Bel Canto, Run, State of Wonder, and Commonwealth. She was the editor of Best American Short Stories, 2006, and has written three books of nonfiction, Truth & Beauty, about her friendship with the writer, Lucy Grealy, What now? an expansion of her graduation address at Sarah Lawrence College, and, most recently, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, a collection of essays.

In November 2011, she opened Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, with her partner Karen Hayes. She has since gone on to be a spokesperson for independent booksellers, talking about books and bookstores on “The Colbert Report,” NPR, “The Martha Stewart Show” and “The CBS Early Show.” Along with James Patterson she was the honorary chair of World Book Night. In 2012 she was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

Ann Patchett lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, Karl VanDevender, and their dog, Sparky.


Nashville, Tennessee

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

Read an Excerpt


A Novel

By Ann Patchett

HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright © 2016 Ann Patchett
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-06-249179-4


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.


Excerpted from Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. Copyright © 2016 Ann Patchett. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Commonwealth 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The children are the focus in this novel, but you also really have to feel for the two parents who are left behind when their spouses leave them. Some humor mixed with sadness. Some characters hard to like but not written off completely by the author. The value of family. Though this is a novel, part of it makes you wonder who owns a memoir -- the author or the people close to the author who are in it. Not for those looking for plot but well written and memorable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Boring, disjointed, quite disappointing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read about 75 pages but have no idea what it is about or why I should care. The story jumps back and forth in time with no connection. Very boring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My 2nd Patchett book but I couldn't finish the other one either. The plot, if you can call it that, is weak and this reads like a series of short stories with annoying characters. I'm done trying.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story haunted me each day as i was reading it. I couldnt wait until my next chance to pick it up to rejoin the lives of thd characters
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was sorta interesting in a vauge sort of way. I kept thinking it would become coherent but it really didn't. And then it ended abruptly with no resolution whatsoever. Don't waste your time or money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting , but the story is a bit confusing as it follows 10 major characters over a 50 year time span and the author goes from present day to anytime in the past with little connection . I usually enjoy this type of writing , but found this book disjointed .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Patchett takes her reader through an emotional discovery that leads, in the end, to where all paths conclude: ourselves.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great read. Loved it. As good as Bel Canto.
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett is a very highly recommended domestic saga involving four parents and six children, and covering five decades. Commonwealth is one of the best books I have had the pleasure to read this year. By chance, just to escape the chaos at his home, Bert Cousins leaves his wife Teresa and their 3 children at home while he attends Beverly and Fix Keating's christening party for their second daughter, Franny. He barely knows her father, Fix, but before he leaves the party he has kissed and fallen for Beverly, thus setting up the dissolution of both marriages. Bert and Beverly marry, move from California to Virginia, and merge the two families. Every summer all six children are together in Virginia, and the two Cousins girls, Caroline and Franny, join forces with the Keatings, Cal, Holly, Jeannette, and Albie. The step-siblings form a bond and genuine affection for each other that based largely on their shared adventures and disappointment in and resentment toward their parents. During their time in Virginia the children are left largely unsupervised and engage in some risky activities. When one of the children has an accident, the others ban together to tell all the adults the same story. They keep secret what really happened. The accident means that the shared summers have ended, although the loyalty the step-siblings feel toward each other doesn't diminish. This begs the questions: How reliable are the memories and perceptions of children? How much does a broken family affect children? When Franny is in her mid-twenties she meets a famous writer she admires and begins an affair with him that has far reaching consequences. Author Leon Posen, who hasn't written anything for years, listens carefully to Franny's stories of her childhood and betrays her confidences when he uses them as material for a wildly successful book, (also called Commonwealth). This betrayal reaches all the step-siblings. Now the question is who owns the stories you freely share with someone you trusted? Patchett mainly follows Franny, but all the people involved in these broken and blended families have their stories told at some point. Along with the shifting points-of-view, the narrative also jumps around in time. Starting with the christening party for Franny in the 1960's, the novel jumps to Franny going to chemo with her father, Fix, who is in his early 80's. Readers can anticipate a shifting chronology and perspective throughout this novel. It is not difficult to follow, though, and you will desperately want to know what happens next in all time periods. As usual Patchett's writing is absolutely brilliant and totally captivating. She manages to capture the how past dramas can effect ordinary lives well into the future, but also how communicating and working together can overcome the trials. Sometimes a mature perspective can change an arbitrary and naive interpretation of events. All relationships are difficult and family drama always exists, but is there forgiveness along with the betrayals and disappointments? How would a stranger tell your story after viewing your family and your past? How would different members of your family tell their story? Patchett elegantly demonstrates that sometimes the truth is all in the telling of the story. Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rich storytelling, but I founf only two characters likeable and was dissastisfied with the ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love a story about storytelling.
Piney10 More than 1 year ago
I would rate this a 4.5. Ann Patchett is one of my favorite authors. Her books are so diverse in plot that it shows how truly gifted an author she is. Although I must admit I really liked State of Wonder and Bel Canto probably due to the exotic locale settings, the plot here was more domestic and family driven but extremely thought provoking. I have spent days thinking about the story and its generally well defined characters. This story revolves around the lives of two families, a blended family with 5 children, related over 50 years or so. It is witty, tragic, heartbreaking, and loving. One particular incident of note is an adventure these 5 children do on their own initiative without their absent parents. While hysterical it also showed the true dysfunction of the two parents involved. Other incidents revealed the various characters, mostly the children, as they grew up and how their lives were impacted and interwoven with one another. Very well written. Absolutely enjoyed this book!
Honolulubelle More than 1 year ago
Favorite Quotes: He could see him now, that same brown suit all detectives wore to court, like there was only one and they shared it. The children, who seem only to be atmospheric and charming at first, are more like a ball of snakes. They were her kidnappers, sailing her across the lawn and into the backseat of the car, lifting up her feet while pivoting her around in a way that was disturbingly profession, as if stealing old people was what they did. She eased her heels out of the backs of her shoes even though she knew it was a mistake. Her feet would expand like bread dough and she would never be able to cram them back in. Teresa looked back and forth between Bert and the pretty ring on her hand and thought she must be emitting light from her entire body she loved him so much. It was unnerving to remember that now, at seventy-two... She had loved Bert Cousins... and then, after he left her with four small children, she had hated him with the full force of her life. Without warning her head dropped forward and for an instant she was sound asleep. She made a small, startled sound like a dog or a pig having a dream. She sat up straight again, opened her eyes slightly to see if anyone had caught her. That's the trouble with being fifteen - all he can think of is what he doesn't want. My Review: Commonwealth was my first experience reading the masterful word craft of Ann Patchett. I was captivated and enthralled by the intricate details that wove in and out as the storyline was being expertly and cleverly constructed. I was introduced to an array of unusual, quirky, and abhorrent characters. There were so many characters that I had initially despaired I would not be able to keep them straight. However, that was never a problem as each family member was uniquely differentiated, unflinchingly and distinctly fleshed out, and interestingly described. I was fascinated by each and every one of them, although, I would not want to inhabit the same hemisphere as any of them. The majority of adults were neglectful and selfish, while the children were angry, spiteful, and ranged from overly conforming to obnoxious. Ms. Patchett cleverly exposed the underbelly and frustrations of each family member as well as their interesting oddities and endearing characteristics. The writing was whip-smart, sneaky, and highly observant. Her magical words squeezed my heart, stole my breath, and were consistently unpredictable. It was ingenious! I have since added her name to my list of favorite authors of all time.
Delphimo 7 months ago
Decades ago, I read Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto and thoroughly enjoyed the story. Commonwealth opens in suburban California with a christening party and a party crasher breaking two families apart. Ann Patchett’s interviews about this novel suggest that many parts of the story follow your own life. The story shows the change in public opinion concerning divorce and illicit romance beginning in the 1960’s. Patchett explores the story line of each of the six children and the two sets of parents during a span of fifty years. One daughter, Franny, shares her life history with her lover, who then writes a novel which is then produced as a movie. I enjoyed Patchett’s heightened suspense when one of the children dies with no explanation as to what happened. This remains unsolved until the end of the novel. The intimate details of the six children maturing to adulthood remains cloudy regarding their spouses and their children, they seem to hatch fully grown. I also felt that Bert, Beverly, and Teresa needed more development.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good character development and the writing is exquisite. Ms. Patchett’s descriptions are elegant without being overwrought.
alexcan3 More than 1 year ago
I might consider 3.5 stars for this novel. On the one hand, I was invested and interested enough to finish the book in 3 days. I liked two characters a lot. On the other hand, when finished, I put it down and immediately thought about what I would read next. The characters were fine, but I don't expect to think about them again in the future. I don't think the plot/story will sit with me for a few days or weeks as great reads often do. I think the writing was nothing special. There seemed to be some editing issues with the copy I have - typos, incorrect words - not often, but still. I think a few unnecessary characters were introduced at the end. On the other hand, I read the negative reviews before starting this novel, and I ended up liking it more than the reviewers I read. I don't see myself reading another novel by this author. I don't see myself recommending this one to friends.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love every one of Ann Patchett's books. This is one of my favorites because there are just so many characters to fall in love with. They are complex, make bad decisions, get angry, screw up royally. They are so human. I found it impossible to put down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Despite the fact that I'm very familiar with Torrance California and Virginia, I just couldn't get into this book. It seemed silly in most parts. Another dysfunctional family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I did not like this book. The author skip around the story line far to much for my liking. The minute you got interest in a subject or person she changed the topic and you had to start all over again. This book also had no ending. If the events is this book happened in real life the parents would have been arrested and the children would have been put in Forster care. This book was not believable in my opinion. I would not recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I knew when I? read The Patron Saint of Liars, that I? would read everything she wrote. This is another interesting family drama. Loved the characters and the back and forth in time. Remains one of my favorite authors.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It took me quite a while to get into this book, which I ultimately felt would have made a good novella. That people come into our lives and shape us differently than we might otherwise have been took far too long for the author to say.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought the characters were interesting, but had hoped for more plot. The way in which the story is told keeps the reader curious, but the ending is a bit anti climactic. I just expected more. I enjoyed the storyline, but was underwhelmed. Not that I’m a great critic or anything, however I’m left feeling like I missed something.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
jeanniezelos More than 1 year ago
Commonwealth, Ann Patchett Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews Genre:  General Fiction (adult), Literary fiction Well, lots of rave reviews, an author who I've never read and a book that sounded interesting.  So loads of people love this book but for me? It just didn't work.  I found the constant time changing choppy and confusing. One moment I felt the kids were small then we were reminiscing and they were adults. Then back to them as kids again... I didn't like the characters, didn't understand what they did, why the did things and just felt I was reading day to day appalling parenting, reading about neglectful, selfish adults, bad decisions and after getting to 60% with a struggle I finally gave up.  I can see others love it, really adore it and that's great. Its just isn't one for me. That's how reading is, what one likes another hates so make your own judgment, you could be among those who love this kind of read, or like me who don't. Its not a reflection of how good or bad a story is, just on how the reader enjoys it. I've loved books others have rated one and two stars, what they didn't like is what made them perfect for me. this could be that book for you. Or not ;-)    Stars: Two, I didn't hate it so no one star from me but there wasn't enough interest to keep me reading. ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers