Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review: This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

I have read quite a bit of Patchett's fiction over the years and I was lucky enough to hear her talk when she accepted the WNBA Award this past spring. Having enjoyed her fiction, her lovely non-fiction tribute to a friend, and delighted in her acceptance speech, I was definitely curious to read this collection of nonfiction, culled from her years of writing for magazines. I don't know what she left out of the book, but this is definitely a best of the best kind of collection and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Almost all of the essays in the book have been previously published in a wide variety of magazines, which might lead you to think that there is no unifying thread to the works but you'd be far wide of the mark. No matter how diverse the subject matter appears to be, each of the essays adds a small piece to the puzzle of who Ann Patchett is as a person. It might seem odd to suggest that there are snippets of bared soul in essays like living in an RV or trying out to enter the LA Police Academy, and less odd to suggest that additional private glimpses come through in essays about her love for her small, found dog, her relationship with her failing grandmother, and her friendship with an aging nun who once taught her in school, but all of them, as well as the rest of the essays, are equally personal and revealing in weaving the story of her life.

The essays are linked by the importance of commitment and relationship and explore the things about which Patchett cares deeply. She addresses marriage and divorce, the parent child relationship, the power and disappointment of writing, and the negative reaction to Truth and Beauty, her beautiful ode to her late friend Lucy Grealy. Most of the pieces are short; they were written for magazines originally, after all. But the length is immaterial given the heart that shines through them in this uniformly strong collection. Patchett doesn't present only the heartwarming and positive in her experience but she chronicles the real and the difficult and the not so pretty, the arguments and the failings and the less than admirable moments that make up a real person. And in compiling the collection she has, she has made herself accessible to her readers in a new and different way. You'll close the cover to these stories feeling as if you'd be privileged to be Patchett's friend.

For more information about Ann Patchett and the book, check out her website, follow Parnassus Book's blog (the bookstore Ann co-owns), or follow them on Twitter. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.


  1. I've been intrigued by Patchett for a number of years but haven't actually read any of her work yet. Looks like I'm really missing out!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  2. I'm a bit jealous that you were able to hear her talk! I enjoyed this book immensely and am a much bigger Patchett fan than I was before, which was already pretty big :)


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