Commonwealth  -Book Club Reading Guide

Commonwealth

by Ann Patchett

Praise For This Book:

“Patchett brings humanity, humor, and a disarming affection to lovable, struggling characters... Irresistible.” — Library Journal

“Exquisite... Commonwealth is impossible to put down.” — New York Times

“(A) rich and engrossing new novel …” — New York Times Book Review

“Indeed, this is Patchett’s most autobiographical novel, a sharply funny, chilling, entrancing, and profoundly affecting look into one family’s “commonwealth,” its shared affinities, conflicts, loss, and love.” — Booklist

“…a funny, sad, and ultimately heart-wrenching family portrait…Patchett elegantly manages a varied cast of characters…[Patchett is] at her peak in humor, humanity, and understanding people in challenging situations.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The prose is lean and inviting…A satisfying meat-and-potatoes domestic novel from one of our finest writers.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Wonderfully executed…” — Marie Claire

“Commonwealth is a smart, thoughtful novel about the ties that bind us.” — Pop Sugar

“Commonwealth is an all-American family saga, but her touching and even-handed approach to themes such as family politics, love, the role of literature and the acidic nature of lies is buoyed by a generous sprinkling of matter-of-fact humor” — BookPage

“Commonwealth bursts with keen insights into faithfulness, memory and mortality… [An] ambitious American epic…” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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*Author Website: http://www.annpatchett.com/about/

*Discussion Questions



Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. How is each child—Cal, Caroline, Holly, Jeanette, Franny, and Albie—affected by the divorce and neglect that results?

2. What does it mean to become a family again in the wake of divorce? How does each child grow to respond to the family difficulties?

3. In what ways are the siblings good for and to each other?

4. Bert believes that his divorce, all the difficulties for the children, and his marriage to Beverly were inevitable. “We’re magic,” he says to her. In what ways might this be true? To what extent does romantic love justify their decision?

5. What influence did the time periods, especially the ’60s and ’70s, have on the behavior and decisions of the characters?

6. What’s added to the novel by the presence of Lomer, Fix’s first partner on the police force?

7. How does the ageing of the four parents—Beverly, Fix, Teresa, and Bert—affect their feelings and behavior regarding each other and the children?

8. Franny falls for Leon Posen because of “the brightness in him.” What might this mean? Why do you think Franny and Leo were willing to overlook their age difference?

9. As adults, Jeanette suggests to Albie, perhaps in jest, that they create a family therapy plan for Holly and their mother. What does it take to repair and rebuild family relationships after so much division and tragedy?

10. What do the various literary allusions (David Copperfield, The Return of the Native, The English Patient, T. S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock) bring to the novel?

11. After writing his novel based on the life stories of the siblings, Leon Posen says “it’s my book,” while Albie asks, “how did he end up with my life?” What are the ethical and legal issues of the situation? Should there be regulations for writing about others without their consent?

12. Fix believes, “There’s no protecting anyone...keeping people safe...is a story.” To what extent is this true? Why does he believe this?

13. Holly chooses meditation over medication as a way of dealing with her suffering and stress. In what ways is this a healthy response to her life? What of her mother’s question of whether it’s “a real life”?

14. Among other things, Holly is attempting to find inner peace. To what extent does childhood determine who we become ? How can an unsatisfying or unhealthy self be transformed?

15.Beverly admits late in her life that “other people’s children are too hard.” What does she mean? In what ways is this true or not? 16. Discussing their difficult past, Holly says to Teresa, “you got through it.” What’s the value of this? In what ways does each character go beyond this to remake his or her life?

17. Bert and Beverly’s kiss sets everything in motion for a lot of people who had no choice in the matter. How does that single decision shape everyone else ’s life?

(Discussion Questions by Publisher)
Book Summary
Hardcover Harper Collins 09/13/2016 ISBN: 9780062491794 - ISBN 10: 0062491792 - 336 Pages

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.

 
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