In Commonwealth Patchett shows what happens when two married adults with children meet and fall in love. The story starts off quite traditionally with the ex-husband to be. Next Patchett combines a large jump into the future with the point of view of the children who are forced into a separation through their parents.
Patchett shows the effect of a divorce on young lives. At a certain point it also becomes quite clear that a major disaster has even more influence on the lives of the families. The story not being told from a to z works; it elevates the novel from being just nice into really nice.
Commonwealth is not great, splendid or whatsoever. I suspect that the almost gurgling style of describing meetings and moments in the lives of her protagonists has added to this. The interaction between the characters is what counts, not so much what happens – despite the fact that two major moments have decidedly changed all of their lives. Sharing specific, short moments of several protagonists lives with us contributes to the reader never getting closer to either protagonist. We are kept at a distance by Patchett, it almost feels as if she allows us sneaky peeks into private lives.
By taking us along in the lives of the protagonists Patchett prepares us for the reveal of the second major event changing all of their lives. It also is revealed almost casually. As a result I found that I was interested in reading on though never getting enthusiastic about it. I liked Commonwealth, a masterpiece it is not.