I am unembarrassed to join the chorus of praise for this complex yet lucid novel, which presents us with two fractured families linked by betrayal and tragedy and makes us forgive their sins. Surefooted as a mountain goat, Patchett leaps to and fro across 50 years of nonlinear narrative, carrying us along on prose as clear and bracing as an alpine spring.
In its strongest chapter, the novel carries us to a Buddhist retreat in Switzerland that evokes The Magic Mountain unmistakably. But while it conveys the nuance and detail of literature, Commonwealth continually radiates humor, compassion and humility.
The book’s title refers to Virginia, where its story begins, as well as to a novel within the novel, an ingenious conceit and the hinge of the plot. But it is also apt in another way: Though its idiom appears plain and ordinary, Commonwealth delivers a rich bounty of rewards.