A Reese Witherspoon Book Club Pick
“I had been so engaged by Ann Patchett’s multifaceted story, so lured in by her confiding voice, that I forgot I was on the job. […] As the best personal essays often do, Patchett’s is a two-way mirror, reflecting both the author and her readers.” — New York Times Book Review
Blending literature and memoir, New York Times bestselling author Ann Patchett, author of State of Wonder, Run, and Bel Canto, examines her deepest commitments—to writing, family, friends, dogs, books, and her husband—creating a resonant portrait of a life in This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.
This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage takes us into the very real world of Ann Patchett’s life. Stretching from her childhood to the present day, from a disastrous early marriage to a later happy one, it covers a multitude of topics, including relationships with family and friends, and charts the hard work and joy of writing, and the unexpected thrill of opening a bookstore.
As she shares stories of the people, places, ideals, and art to which she has remained indelibly committed, Ann Patchett brings into focus the large experiences and small moments that have shaped her as a daughter, wife, and writer.
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.
Great Book for Patchett Fans
Note: I received This is the Story of a Happy Marriage from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
I've been an Ann Patchett fan for years. I loved State of Wonder and adored The Patron Saint of Liars, so when I was given the opportunity to read about Ann Patchett by Ann Patchett, I jumped. And boy, am I glad I did! Confession: I had no idea she started out writing magazine articles. I consider myself to be pretty up-to-snuff when it comes to the writing histories of authors I love, but for some reason I never did much Patchett research. I think this is probably a good thing because it lent an air of mystery to her work.
My favorite essay from the book was The Getaway Car. In it, she discusses how she became a writer and gives advice (like don't get an MFA because it's a waste of money) and her self-deprecating process of writing a book. In it, she details the circumstances surrounding writing The Patron Saint of Liars, which is my favorite book by her, and I loved reading the backstory. I think I might actually go back and reread it now that I have some insight into her writing processes.
Voracious readers will love this book. As a writer who is writing about writing (follow all that?), Patchett's love for all things literary is palpable. I, for one, relished in her descriptions of reading, wanting to be a writer as a kid, putting pen to paper, and actually put down the book to write a short, personal essay just because she inspired me.
But enough talking about the book. Run to the library and borrow your copy NOW!
Allison @ The Book Wheel
Heartfelt stories, real characters you can relate to and care for.
Great book to put you to sleep. Not exactly my kind of page turner