I don’t like rereading books; I’d rather spend the time with a new story, but Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth was an exception. Exploring the depths of Commonwealth’s complicated family and the catalysts changing their lives gave me a better understanding of the story’s structure with its underlying conceits, and a new respect for Ann Patchett’s writing talent.
In preparing for the book club discussion, I researched the author. I was already familiar with her other books; this time I looked for her background as a way of connecting with her own family references in this book, and I found a few to share at the book club. I always like book lists and authors who inspire writers, and in my meanderings I found Ann Patchett offered some new possibilities.
Because Patchett mentioned her friendship with Jacqueline Woodson, four time winner of the Newbery Award, I listened to an online podcast at the Free Library of Philadelphia with both authors discussing Patchett’s Commonwealth and Woodson’s Another Brooklyn. The podcast is a one hour discussion with Patchett and Woodson reading from their books. In the publisher’s excerpt, childhood memory is the common element – how the memory of childhood events differs, according to the age of the child experiencing it.
For the New York Times “By the Book,” Patchett named Saul Bellow, the winner of the Nobel, Pulitzer, and National Book Awards, as one of her favorite authors, as well as Doris Kearns Goodwin, award winning author and historian. In the podcast she also offers a number of her favorite books from Charlotte’s Web to The Witches of Blackbird Pond to A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, When Breath Becomes Air, The Underground Railroad, and more. She has a monthly blog talking about her favorite books at “Ann’s Blog”
As a result of rediscovering Ann Patchett, I am now reading:
- Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn
- Saul Bellow’s Humboldt’s Gift
- Henry James’ The Ambassadors
- Matthew Desmond’s Evicted
Through the interviews I learned more about Patchett, the person. She’s warm and funny and real – someone I would enjoy meeting for coffee. Maybe I will someday, if I ever get to Tennessee.
- Podcast with Patchett and Woodson (excerpt from one hour podcast)
- New York Times Interview with Patchett
- Review of Commonwealth