Bad news first followed by good…
Understandably a prolific writer can’t hit a high note every book they write but Commonwealth by Ann Patchett was unfortunately a big disappointment to me. I love all the other works I’ve read by her.* It’s interesting because in general the book was very good. The plot was fine: it’s about two families that were ripped apart by an infidelity that occurs at a child’s christening party, and the subsequent effect it has on the members of each family. I absolutely don’t mind books that aren’t the happiest or have the happiest endings, but I need to at least connect with the characters. At no point in the book did I gasp, laugh at loud, cry in public, or make any other random noises (which is a very clear sign that I am enjoying a book.) The dynamics between the characters were real and authentic, but when I compare it to the brilliance of her other novels, there is nothing happy in it that breaks up all the crap that the characters had to go through.
*State of Wonder was my first foray into her novels years ago, and although I can’t remember everything that I liked about it, I do know that what made me fall in love with her writing is how amazing she is at combining both fragility and strength within her characters. Bel Canto and The Patron Saint of Liars are my favorite books by her and I highly recommend them. The Magician’s Assistant is also worth the read.
Bel Canto is the most original of all of them: a birthday party is being held in honor of a diplomat when a group of terrorists crash the party and take the attendees hostage. From there the story is told through the lens of different people at the party but it is not a predictable novel. The Patron Saint of Liars is about a woman who leaves behind her safe life with her husband to live in a home for unwed mothers. I enjoyed the contemplative nature of the characters.