Though I bought Commonwealth in mid-May, I didn’t start reading it until a few days ago. Mostly because I wasn’t sure I would like it. I had read a few reviews and talked to a few people who said variations of, “it took me a long time to get into it,” or “I couldn’t relate and didn’t connect with any of the characters.” I was dreading reading a book that I wouldn’t enjoy. Fast forward to November 26 when I decided to start it, with every intention of not finishing and writing a review that said exactly that.
But lo and behold – I was hooked from the outset. I read the first quarter in one night, the next third the following night, and finished the rest over the next two days. Don’t get me wrong, it was not without its faults. The narrative device somehow made it feel like nothing was happening when in fact so much had happened that it was hard to believe. As I described it when discussing with the other Bookly Clubbers – it’s almost like listening to your friend tell you a story about their cousin’s friend. You don’t really have a connection and you sort of nod along and react appropriately. And then later, when you recount the story to yourself, you think, “Holy $#%& those people lived through hell!”
But, I was touched. Most particularly by Albie’s redemption story. To read about a heroin addict who pulled himself back together and found family again, even just a bit of family, just wrenched my heart. But also by Franny’s journey. Though I found her betrayal of her siblings and family to be loathsome, I also found it easier to forgive her because of the guilt she felt, her support of Albie, and the love she gave to her stepchildren. I was happy that Fix seemed to find long-term happiness with Marjorie after dealing with Beverly’s awfulness. And though we didn’t get to know her, really, I laughed out loud that Bonnie ended up marrying Father Joe Mike. I loathed Beverly and Albert, and was simply disgusted at the way they treated their children and how little they seemed to care about them. But, interestingly, by the end, I found myself thinking that maybe they weren’t so bad (they were, but in their old age they got a little less so).
And then it ended. And the ending felt abrupt. And it was a little disappointing. I was actually confused when I turned the page and found it said “Also by Ann Patchett” instead of a few more pages, or paragraphs, or even sentences. It’s not that the ending was bad, it wasn’t. It wrapped everything up in a logical way. But it was just… abrupt.
(See what I did there?)