Perhaps you love Ann Patchett’s novels, like State of Wonder and Bel Canto. Truth & Beauty, her standout memoir about her friendship with the writer Lucy Grealy, might have a special spot on your shelf. Or maybe you heard how she co-founded Parnassus, an indie bookstore in Nashville that opened its doors after two other local bookstores closed. She’s something of an all-star, and however you arrived at Patchett fandom, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage has something for you.
Fans of Patchett’s fiction will be fascinated by her views on writing nonfiction, which she says is a great way for a novelist to make a living—much better than waiting tables or teaching college kids. She’d much prefer to “knock off an essay” than do the grueling work of “facing down” the next chapter of her novel-in-progress. And as the book shows, Patchett has knocked off quite a few essays over the years, about experiences ranging from driving an RV across the American West (“My Road to Hell Was Paved”) to the title story’s tale of how she fell in love with her husband, by way of an ill-fated first marriage and her subsequent rejection of the very idea of matrimony.
This collection gathers writing across 20 years of Patchett’s life and lets readers in on her best personal stories. Did you know, for instance, that she once seriously trained to enter the L.A. Police Academy? That she considers her grandmother to be one of the great loves of her life? That she still has relationships with some of the nuns who taught her in grammar school? These stories and more are told in simple, appealing prose that feels like a phone conversation with a good friend.
And the book is a great read. Essays are artfully selected and arranged—certain pieces read back-to-back provide a fuller, more interesting story than one would alone. Patchett tells us that early in life she knew she had “a knack for content” when it came to writing. This collection is evidence of that knack, across many different contexts and over many years. It will be a welcome addition to many bookshelves, including my own.Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.
The author of six novels, including PEN/Faulkner Award winner Bel Canto, Patchett has also written nonfiction. Here she pulls together essays appearing in the Atlantic, Harper's, and more to offer overall perspective on Patchett's life, from a topsy-turvy childhood to the sorrows of a bad first marriage and the joys of a second happy one. A sense of what truly grounds Patchett--her writing, her friends, her husband--emerges.[Page 80]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
This compilation of 22 essays by novelist Patchett (winner of the Orange Prize and PEN/Faulkner Award; Taft; State of Wonder), many of which previously appeared in magazines or newspapers, together comprise an eclectic group covering a wide range of events on the topic of commitment, from training to get into the Los Angeles Police Department academy to Patchett's career as an author. In the title piece, she recounts the 11 premarriage years she spent with now husband Karl and the lessons they taught her about marriage. In sharing her struggles as a writer and creating the life she wanted for herself, Patchett offers words that gently advise without imposing. Her experiences, large and small, create a connection with the reader in prose that is thoughtful, warm, and encouraging. Each of the essays is its own delight and resonates with warmth and humor from her family and friends, making a short investment of time wonderfully rewarding. If read straight through, the book presents a lovely and lyrical look at a life well lived. VERDICT Patchett provides insight and entertainment for all kinds of readers, and this title will be an asset to any library.--Catherine Gilmore, MLS, Portland, OR[Page 99]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
A collection of 22 essays (including a couple of commencement addresses) previously published by accomplished novelist and memoirist Patchett (State of Wonder; What Now?; etc.) offer generous glimpses of her rural, divorced Catholic Tennessee background and winding but determined route to becoming a writer ("The Getaway Car"). Writing nonfiction, first for Seventeen and later a host of magazines as her network of editors expanded, was her bread and butter in the early days, and she has an authoritative, straightforward voice in exploring some of the milestones of her life, such as her deep love for her dog, Rose (not to be confused with the desire for a baby), learning from scratch how to love opera in order to write her bestseller Bel Canto, preparing with her ex-cop father's guidance for the grueling L.A. Police Academy exams ("The Wall"), her startling resolve to start up a Nashville bookstore when no other bookstore was left in her hometown, and her painful but merciful segue from divorce to remarriage. The public addresses she made after the publication of Truth & Beauty, a memoir about her friendship with the deeply tortured writer Lucy Grealy, form the most telling and moving selections, especially her compelling speech ("The Right to Read") given to the Clemson University student body in defense of academic and artistic freedom. Early on, her writing teacher Russell Banks had warned Patchett of being too "polished" and "just getting by," urging her to take risks, and certainly many of these selections reveal a candid, evolved self-reflection. (Nov.)[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC