However, having now read this wonderful book I felt the need to just get a few words down about it. It’s one of those great books where you finish it, close the book, look around and think…’right I need to talk about this’. So talk about it (only a little) I shall!
This was a library loan which as I’ve said, I’d heard great reviews of on Booktube. Interestingly I’ve since looked at reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and they are distinctly hit and miss which surprises me, but I suppose it’s all down to individual tastes at the end of the day.
I must also mention that this was my first Ann Patchett novel but by no means my last.
It is a great family saga spanning several decades. It starts with Fix and Beverly Keating’s christening party for their young baby daughter Francis. Albert Cousins, a beleaguered, somewhat disillusioned District Attorney shows up to the party, large bottle of gin in hand, unexpectedly. Based on the vague ‘friend of a friend’ loose invitation and in the absence of anything else to do besides help out at home with his 3 children (and one on the way), Albert decides the party is a much more appealing prospect.
‘The christening party took a turn when Albert Cousins arrived with gin. Fix was smiling when he opened the door and he kept smiling as he struggled to make the connection: it was Albert Cousins from the District Attorneys office standing on the cement slab of his front porch. He’d opened the door twenty times in the last half hour, to neighbors and friends and people from the church and Beverly’s sister and all his brothers and their parents and practically an entire precinct worth of cops, but Cousins was the only surprise.’
It is at this party that one small act changes the course of two families lives irreparably and with wide reaching consequences. Albert shares a somewhat drunken kiss with Fix’s wife Beverly and from then on we follow the story of the two, now broken families and their struggles to remain connected for the sake of the 6 children involved, albeit very disjointedly.
We follow most, but not all of the story through Francis’ eyes, from her childhood growing up with her sister and step siblings, various holidays and summers spent together and the knock on effect of their fractured relationships with their parents/step-parents.
As I said earlier it is a great family saga, and I was intrigued to find out what happened to the various characters be it a central character or a ‘bit part’ player. This story explores infidelity, parenthood, family connections and longstanding family secrets.
At times this story tugged at the heartstrings, particularly in later chapters when Fix is elderly and sick. I loved the fact that the story spanned decades and was always moving forward with glimpses back at certain events in the past. Some sections were incredibly detailed and emotive.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it. I can’t wait to read more of Ann Patchett’s work.