“Half the things in this life I wish I could remember and the other half I wish I could forget.”
As promised, Commonwealth had no murders and no mysteries. There was heartbreak and glamour and drama, though, so fear not. The story starts with the meeting–and subsequent disbanding–of two LA families in 1960s and follows the melded group over the course of the next five decades.
There’s the expected drama that comes from breaking up two marriages and vacationing with six kids (four from the Cousins’ marriage, two from the Keating’s). But within the usual drama, there’s an interesting dynamic that forms between the six kids who only spend their summers in the same state.
As the story weaves through the family’s long-ago drama and present-day trials, we follow Franny Keating’s accidental voyage to literary muse-hood. While working at Chicago’s Palmer House, Franny meets her most favorite author, Leo Posen, and they begin a years-long love affair (which is where all of the glamour and most of the drama comes from).
Over the course of their courtship, Franny tells Leo the story of her childhood — from the way her mother and stepfather met to the tragic death of an innocent boy on the family farm to the arsonist tendencies of her youngest stepbrother. None of her life is off-limits to her lover and he takes advantage of the opportunity. A few years into their relationship, Leo publishes his next bestseller, Commonwealth (of course), and Franny’s life turns into an open book, though he claims that the story came “most from his imagination.”
Whether from Leo’s “imagination” or not, the Cousins and Keating families have to deal with the aftermath of the book’s release and the wrath of all those memories they worked so hard to forget.
I really liked this book, espeically the way the story separately focused on each of the Cousins-Keating kids as adults, letting us get small glimpses into the full backstory of their childhood. The intrigue of the backstory snippets kept me intrigued (see what I did there?) and kept the story moving forward at each turn. I didn’t love the way the book ended, but I won’t fault a final few paragraphs when the rest of the 300 pages were top notch. So check it out. It’s worth it.