The best novel I read this year is:
Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett: A tough choice because I loved and still think about, like on a daily basis, Richard Powers’ The Overstory. Patchett’s book wins out not necessarily because it’s a better novel but because I got more out of it as a writer — and think you might too. Patchett experiments with the sequence of her story, about two families whose lives intersect across multiple generations. Her approach is innovative, invigorating even, but never hard to follow. The deeper you get into the novel, the richer and more satisfying it becomes.
Here’s what I wrote about Commonwealth in January in my newsletter, just after I finished it:
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“Man, I loved this book. I started the novel over the holiday break in large part because I’d torn through one of Patchett’s earlier work, Bel Canto, a literary take on a hostage crisis at a South American opera house. Commonwealth’s premise is more pedestrian but is easily the better book. The story begins with an extramarital affair in the 1960s that fractures two Los Angeles families. The genius of the novel is how Patchett structures it: It jumps around chronologically, the chapters self-contained episodes of various characters’ lives. These episodes are highly enjoyable; Patchett is a funny and humane storyteller who also happens to be great with a sentence. For half the book I thought the episodes were random. Then I realized they were not.
“That’s when the book really got good.”