Ann Patchett Shares Commonwealth at SJC

By Daniela Cardinale


Patchett (left) joined by Sullivan (right)


A wise mother once said, “None of it happened, and all of it’s true.”


In mid-September, SJC’s Brooklyn campus hosted international best-selling author and independent bookseller Ann Patchett, who discussed Commonwealth, her latest novel. Held as part of SJC’s ongoing “Brooklyn Voices” series in partnership with Greenlight Bookstore, the conversation was also featured as a Brooklyn Book Festival event.  


Interviewed by her friend and fellow novelist Julie Courtney Sullivan, Patchett explained her creative process. She also touched upon the influences of her family and friends—as well as the fans she meets at her bookstore, Parnassus Books, in Nashville, Tennessee.


Commonwealth focuses on divorce and its impact on family unity, topics that Patchett described as part of her own experience. The novel unfolds around an unexpected romantic encounter at a christening party between two guests, Bert Cousins and protagonist Franny Keating’s mother, Beverly. This encounter leads to changes between two families, affecting the lives of four parents and six children over the course of fifty years.


Ultimately, the children are forced to come to terms with what has been lost, the pain and guilt felt, and the loyal bonds they have formed with the passing of time. As Patchett explained, Divorce is the history lesson, that thing that must be remembered in order not to be repeated. Divorce is the rock upon which this church is built.

Throughout the evening, Patchett built a strong rapport with the more than 100 fans who came to see her. Hinting at her next novel, Patchett said, “I feel like next I can go back and continue to write the same kind of deeply hidden book in imaginative terms. Maybe I, having gone into the heart of it, excavated the story, and—maybe—something amazing will happen. Who knows?”


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