Commonwealth by Ann Patchett Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett.; HarperCollins, 2016. 322 pages; $27.99 (hardcover); reading level: adult.

Nothing happens according to expectation here. In chapter one, we meet all the major characters at a 1964 christening during which an illicit kiss begins an affair. Then we fast-forward to 2014 to listen in on the husband/victim of the affair and the now-grown daughter who was christened in the previous chapter. We spend the rest of the book filling in the gaps, bit by bit, coming to know the six children and four adults upended by multiple divorces: how they cope, how they rage, how they move forward, and how some of them heal. Patchett, the Catholic author/creator of this fictional world, is generous with her characters as they sin mightily or stumble carelessly. She lets them deal with the consequences of their choices but always offers them a second (and a third, and a fourth) chance to find a better path. Her theme is almost biblical: In a messy world where sin abounds, grace abounds more. No one but Ann Patchett could have taken the jagged pieces of eight lives and arranged them into such a masterpiece: Hope plucked from the rag heap of reality.

Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge, Author

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