Well, for those of you who say I read a lot of books in a month -- well, that's anything but the case! In Novmber I finished one book. Lots of reasons for not reading -- and no excuses!
"This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage" by Ann Patchett
This collection of essays is by one of my favorite authors. It's not my personal favorite of her works (including her essays -- her "These Precious Days" was one of my favorite books of 2023). But there are many small gems in this one and, as many essay collections work, each one may resonate differently with each reader.
The book contains 22 essays, all of which have been previously published. Patchett, as her fans know, has often written for other publications including The Atlantic, New York Times and The New Yorker, among others. However, they were all new to me.
And, as with most essay collections, some resonate deeply; some not so much.
She leads off with "How to Read a Christmas Story," a warm reflection on her father's reading of a Christmas story on the phone to her from across the country and the impact that had on young woman, now living far from her father with her mother and step-family.
Many of the essays revolve around writing and books, as we learn about Patchett's personal journey as a writer, which began at a very young age. She wanted to write from the time she was a child and through her eyes we follow experiences at writer workshops and her graduate work, "meeting" some of her mentors and inspirations. Another fascinating piece focuses on how she was received with protests and book banning back in the 1990s when invited to speak at a Southern university on her book "Truth and Beauty," about her friendship with author/poet Lucy Grealy. Also included is her speech to freshmen at the university about the book and writing, which was required reading for new students. It should be required reading for all people. I only wish I could have heard her oral delivery.
Patchett is the co-owner of Parnassus book store in Nashville and another essay highlights how the store began, while still another tells of her love affair with her dog, Rose. And yes, she writes of her relationships as well, as the title explains -- including a memorable trip in an RV to Yosemite with the man who is now her husband.
The collection follows Patchett's evolution -- as writer, as seeker of information, as daughter, granddaughter, as the life partner of her husband, a man she once said she would never marry, and ultimately, as a human being. And while I don't know if that was part of her "plan" in organizing and writing the essays, all of which were done over about two decades and for different publications, one can sense the growth in this woman over time as she discovers new things, new people and ultimately, herself.
All in all, if you enjoy essays, you may well love this book. I still loved her "These Precious Days" more -- but then, as I mentioned, different essays hit different people in different ways. Patchett's writing is always delicious to savor and there is much to enjoy here.