Commonwealth by Ann Patchett is a novel that is very difficult to describe to someone without giving them the whole story. Its characters are very interwoven and difficult to pin down – much in the sense that they are actual people with actual problems and inconsistencies. And the plot is not so much of a plot as it is a collection of happenings.
I feel like this novel is as close to real life that one can get. It doesn’t hide anything and doesn’t seek to comment much on what does happen. It happens and there isn’t much you can do about it. I felt as if I was listening to the biography of someone rather than reading a novel. It was odd.
That being said, I liked it because of its realness. It stuck to its guns – it was going to give a realistic view of the world and you were going to sit there and take it. For someone who reads fantasy and science fiction, this felt like a quick slap to the face.
There are some nasty things that happen here – primarily to the youngest son who was just annoying and was fed Benadryl like it was going out of style – the kids called them “Tic Tacs”. Wow. But again, these moments are presented with little to no commentary. I’m not sure what the author thinks of these things other than, “Well, it happened.”
No one really learns anything. No one feels a particular way about anything. They just exist and deal with it. Even the most overwhelming aspect – that the two families were split apart and then put back together again was met with mostly nothing. No one seemed to care.
It was kind of eerie. But also annoying. I found myself getting frustrated with these characters. SAY SOMETHING. YOUR WIFE JUST LEFT YOU. But that scene was left out. Because it doesn’t matter, apparently. Similarly, the finding of their eldest brother’s body was recounted in deadpan, almost in a confused fashion. But also, no one of any importance was bothered besides the maid.
I don’t know. I have to think about this one more.