Commonwealth is an uncommon read. It revolves around a family that is uncommon but somehow not uncommon at all. The relationships between families divided and rebuilt with scraps is a universal theme. Even if you come from a family never split by divorce, you definitely have something off about your family. (If you think there is nothing off about your family, you are probably the thing that is off about your family.) Through the complex narrative that Patchett slowly unfolds, you can find pieces of the story that make you feel at home – sometimes the chaotic, dysfunctional version of home that so often defines our family.
It speaks to the excellence of Ann Patchett’s writing that she could develop little stories and relationships and build it into something greater than the sum of their parts. It is the way she describes seemingly innocuous parts of the scene that drew me in. Describing a single mother’s struggles – “She was always arriving, always leaving, never there.” It’s an enormously complex struggle synthesized into one sentence.
One of the things I love that this book does is show how trauma changes everyone. Every child grew into some divergent version of the person they were before Cal died. Loss is something that we all must live through, but loss is the thing we all experience differently. “Life, Teresa knew by now, was a series of losses. It was other things too, better things, but the losses were as solid and dependable as the earth itself.”
I really enjoyed this book. I would definitely recommend it to others.