By Alexis Mercer
If someone asked me even a year ago if I had a favorite author, I would have had to say no. Granted, I’m mildly obsessed with the Lee Child Jack Reacher series (let’s NOT get into the horrid decision to cast Tom Cruise as Jack because I could go on for hours). And I’ve read nearly every James Patterson novel ever printed. But neither of those authors could even come close to qualifying as a favorite. Their novels are mindless reads that I enjoy on the beach or between novels with substance.
But then I read Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. And I was reminded of my deep love for Patchett’s writing.
Many, many years ago I read Bel Canto; my first Ann Patchett novel. Immediately I was infatuated with Patchett’s ability to string words together in a way that stuck with me and created a beautiful picture in my mind.
Her capacity to tell a story about human nature and how we are all alike in the most unlikely ways is fully divulged with that first book.
Sometime after Bel Canto, but still many years ago, I read Patchett’s Run. Though when I think about it now, I don’t remember many details of the plot itself, I do remember being transported into a beautiful world of story.
So when it was my first time to choose for Book Club last year, Bel Canto was my immediate thought. I wanted everyone to be able to experience the joy I had when reading that book. As I reread it, I was reminded just how much I wanted to read more of her novels.
Over the winter I bought State of Wonder. Unlike anything else of Patchett’s I had read so far, I found myself in a South American jungle, dreaming of travels and learning of a world about which I knew nothing. I was awestruck at the disparities between the three novels I had encountered.
How could one author so authentically construct such divergent stories in the most magical of ways?
State of Wonder led me to Commonwealth; I was hooked on Patchett’s astonishing oeuvre.
Published May 2 of this year, it is her most recent novel.
A story of two families and how their lives intertwined, Commonwealth is unpredictable yet familiar.
Unpredictable in that I couldn’t possibly have thought in my own mind how the book would unfold. Nor did I even attempt to predict - which I do sometimes in books I find to be frustrating in how they progress. Instead I was able to settle in to the story and enjoy the tale chapter by chapter, word by word.
Familiar in that the characters and situations they encountered felt real, genuine and true. Nothing was far fetched, hard to believe, or unrealistic. I felt comfortable with the characters and how I could relate to them even if their stories were nothing like my own.
The tale of Commonwealth is spun about the Keating and the Cousins families and how their lives are changed after one chance encounter. Fifty years' worth of reaction to the action of one character unfurl in front of the reader.
I knew before I had even reached the last chapter that this was a book I was going to read again. The words are still ringing in my ears and in my heart. So much that as I turned to the last page, I was truly sad that it was over.
While the jury may have been out since I learned to read when I was 4, it is official that Ann Patchett has stolen my heart and my mind with her beautiful prose in each novel of hers I have read.
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