The Dutch House by Ann Patchett [in Booklist]
Tom Hanks couldn’t be a more affable, ‘let’s-enjoy-this-together’ narrator for Ann Patchett’s (Commonwealth) marvelous latest. From the title all the way through to the ending credits, Hanks never ever falters, always performing his charming, ever-so-likable self: “Chapter threeee” lilts up to mimic ‘wheeeeee!; you won’t stop grinning after hearing “Chaaaaaaaaaaapter seventeen.” The 10 hours of storytelling pass too quickly as Hanks embodies three generations of the Conroy family over a half-century of rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-eventual-comfort.
While amassing his real estate fortune, patriarch Cyril surprises his family by buying the titular Dutch House in a Philadelphia suburb – complete with all furnishings, including someone else’s ancestor portraits. His wife feels so out of place, she disappears, leaving behind her two young children, Maeve and Danny. Cyril eventually remarries, and the second Mrs. Conroy quickly claims the majestic home as hers alone, eagerly ejecting her stepchildren when Cyril suddenly dies. For the decades that follow, their former home and their former lives will forever haunt the discarded siblings.
Hanks never wavers from his genial self, yet manages to distinguish each character as he unravels Patchett’s multi-layered narrative with uncanny empathy and affecting delight.