Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Looking to escape his crowded house with four small children underfoot and a stressed out wife, Frank crashes a baby christening party that he heard about recently. At the party, he falls for the baby's mother, and begins an affair with her that leads to two divorces and a new marriage, and a forever altered course of everyone's lives. As Franny, the baby celebrated at the party, becomes an adult, and a law school dropout, she begins dating a famous author old enough to be her father. They grow close and he turns her life story- her mother's affair turned marriage, her step-family, the sudden death of her stepbrother- into a best selling novel titled Commonwealth. They break up before the book is made into a movie decades later, and as the movie is released, Franny has to confront questions and memories of her childhood from members of her family, as well as from her own heart.
I am a huge fan of Patchett. Her writing is gorgeous and her exploration of topics that push the envelope is always fascinating and handled with expert care. This, however, is not my favorite of her work. As I wrote the summary above, I can recognize that I did really like this book and that it had a compelling storyline. It meanders for a very, very long time, though, before the story starts to coalesce into something that makes sense. It is difficult to ascertain through the entire first half of the novel who the main character is, and between the two families joined together there are a lot of characters to try to keep track of, especially when none of them are receiving much attention in the narrative and they all seem to blend together. I think the novel would have been much more impactful had it been more centered on Franny from the get go. She was a gorgeous, flawed, searching, growing, beautiful main character once she came to the reader's attention. If you have a measure of patience in you, this book is well worth picking up, and I appreciated the way it explored the long-lasting impact that divorce and step families have on some kids who experience them.