This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage

by Ann Patchett

Paperback, 2014




Harper Perennial (2014), Edition: Reprint, 306 pages


Biography & Autobiography. Literary Criticism. Nonfiction. HTML: 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." â?? 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 commitmentsâ??to writing, family, friends, dogs, books, and her husbandâ??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 wri… (more)


(365 ratings; 4.1)

User reviews

LibraryThing member lauralkeet
These days, Ann Patchett is best known for her novels, but she began her writing career as a journalist, mastering the art of short non-fiction. This collection of essays, originally published in the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, and other major media outlets, represents some of her finest work
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in the genre.

These essays are highly personal, and collectively describe a life with all of its ups and downs. Patchett discusses her writing career, her romantic and family relationships, her dog, the decision to open a bookstore, and her friendship with Lucy Grealy (covered in depth in Patchett's memoir, Truth and Beauty).

Many times, an essay took hold of me, prompting anything from nodding in agreement to outrage to tears. I couldn't possibly mention every one of these moments. One that stood out was her 2007 piece about her 2006 appearance at Clemson University. Truth and Beauty was assigned reading for the incoming freshman class, to the outrage of many parents and alumni who wrongly deemed it pornographic. Patchett endured their public shaming, and to its credit the university did not cancel their invitation for her to address the class. Her powerful address, "The Right to Read," follows her essay about these events. The final essay in this collection, "The Mercies," is about an aging nun and at first seemed out of place. But as I turned the final page, I realized it was a perfect way to end this book while leaving room for more books like this in the future.
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LibraryThing member lucybrown
I mingle among the well read. They are my people. An interesting thing about them is that they form friendships with writers they have never actually meet, but not usually the same ones. My starry eyed crush on Ivan (Turgenev) leaves my friends bemused. Reynolds Price has always played as my kindly
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uncle. Well, I have meet him, but he isn't my uncle. Others have shared a similar feelings towards Reynolds. The only other writer that I know of who generates such friendly feelings en masse is Ann Patchett. This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage has done nothing but solidify this best-friend-among-writers status. Lord, it must wear the poor woman out. With Anne one goes shopping with her former elementary teacher who is a retired nun, helps take care of Anne's aging grandmother, endures the grueling LAPD entrance exam and PT, and walks the dog. Admit it, you and your best friends argue over who Anne would like best. Okay, maybe that is just us.
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LibraryThing member abbeyhar
I've decided I just don't love ann patchett that much. I loved bel canto, but I'm scared to reread it since it could have just been thr subject matter and the timing of my reading. I thought state of wonder was appallingly dreadful. I thought Truth and beauty portrayed her in an arrogant light.
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Some of these essays came off that way- the getaway car often gave backhanded compliments to less successful mentors. Some essays were more interesting - like the one about her interest in the met hd, or the one about her book store in Nashville- but that's pretty much it. They didn't leave me shaken to the core, or with a new perspective on the topic, I just felt glad that she was writing about something I enjoyed. Her writing just doesn't move me. One exception was "Love Sustained" about her relationship with her grandmother. Worth an independent read.
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LibraryThing member SheTreadsSoftly
This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage is a collection of 23 essays (including the introduction) written by Ann Patchett between 1996 and 2012. The stories not only showcase some of the nonfiction she has written, but they serve as a genuine introduction to the person of Ann Patchett. It is a
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well-known fact that Patchett is an excellent writer. How she approached this pinnacle of success is well documented in the introduction and the subsequent essays bear the truth/fruit of her efforts.

Some of these essays originally appeared in some form in various magazines: Atlantic Monthly, Audible, Gourmet, Granta, Harper's, New York Times, Vogue, and the Washington Post Magazine. Others were written for a venue with this collection also in mind.

Actually, I'm hard pressed to pick favorites from her essays since I found strong points in each one. They all deal with commitments, whether it is to a spouse or a dog or a grandmother or a state or a vocation or an idea. But what all of these essays excel at is tutoring and illustrating how it should be done for would-be-writers. All of these essays are just as compelling as any short story and prove the point that a good writer can write about the ordinariness of everyday life, like caring for a loved one, and make it interesting, honest, and poetic.

All of these essays have something to say. The writing is outstanding... simply superlative. Patchett is able to accurately describe scenes and people in such an extraordinary way that you will feel a connection to the writing. While this is a collection of essays, in many ways it also functions as a memoir, an incredibly literary and beautifully rendered memoir with insightful vignettes and heart-felt disclosures.

Fans of Patchett's fiction should do themselves a favor and purchase this collection asap.

To Patchett I just want to say: Thank you for giving me a small glimpse of some of the things composting in your humus. The brief scenes and insight you chose to share have widened my perspective of your work and given me an even greater appreciation of your talent.

Very Highly Recommended


Nonfiction, an Introduction explains the fact that a writer has to earn a living too. It covers how Patchett not only paid her dues as a freelance nonfiction writer, but also how this helped her become a better writer.

How to Read a Christmas Story is a recollection of various Christmas memories and her first happy Christmas

The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life - is another great essay for those who want to be writers. Two thoughts to share:
"I am a compost heap, and everything I interact with, every experience I've had, gets shoveled onto the heap where it eventually mulches down, is digested and excreted by worms, and rots. It's from that dark, rich humus, the combination of what you encountered, what you know and what you've forgotten, that ideas start to grow." (pg 41)

"I believe in keeping several plots going at once. The plot of a novel should be like walking down a busy city street.... All manner of action and movement is rushing toward you and away. But that isn't enough.... Many writers feel that plot is passe' - they're so over plot, who needs plot? - to which I say: Learn how to construct one first, and then feel free to reject it." (pg. 48)

The Sacrament of Divorce is about her very short, first marriage. "Honey, I know. Things happen that you never thought were possible." (pg. 65)

The Paris Match - is about a trip to Paris and a word game.

This Dog's Life - is the story of how she found her dog, Rose.

In The Best Seat in the House she explains how she satisfies her love of opera.

My Road to Hell Was Paved is about renting a Winnebago to explore RVing in the American West for an article.

In Tennessee she reflects on some of her experiences living in the state.

On Responsibility is about caring for her dog and her grandmother.

The Wall is about the time Patchettt went through the written and physical tests to try out for the police academy in Los Angeles.

Fact vs. Fiction is the Miami University of Ohio Convocation Address of 2005.

In My Life in Sales Patchett reflects on going out on book tours to sell her novels.

"The Love Between the Two Women Is Not Normal" discusses a protest at Clemson University over Patchett's nonfiction book Truth and Beauty, a memoir about her friendship with writer Lucy Grealy.

The Right to Read is the Clemson Freshman Convocation Address of 2006.

Do Not Disturb discusses Pachett checking into the Hotel Bel-Air for some peace and quiet in order to get some work done.

Introduction to The Best American Short Stories 2006 (self-explanatory)

Love Sustained is a moving tribute to her grandmother.

The Bookstore Strikes Back explains how Patchett came to be co-owner of an independent bookstore in Nashville, Parnassus Books.

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage is the story of her family history of failed marriages in comparison to her now successful relationship.

In Our Deluge, Drop by Drop, Patchett reflects on flooding.

In Dog without End she is faced with her faithful companion Rose's decline in health.

In The Mercies Patchett helps Sister Nena, a Sister of Mercy and former teacher, move into an apartment by herself for the first time at age 78.

Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from HarperCollins for review purposes.
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LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
Collections of non-fiction essays by famous novelists and short story writers tend to consist in occasional pieces or commissioned works. Somewhat unusually, Ann Patchett set about learning the skill of the short non-fiction essay for the straightforward reason that she needed to earn her keep
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whilst she toiled away on novels. Her proving ground was in magazines such as Seventeen and she was by no means a natural. She wrote many items and rewrote them many times before she had her first one accepted. But she had remarkable sticktoitiveness. Of course by the time she achieved the style required, her editors had managed to denude her writing of almost anything personal or idiosyncratic. And so many of the earlier pieces in this collection come across as efficient, uncluttered, easy to read, but also somewhat uninteresting. Almost anyone picking up this volume will be more interested in Ann Patchett the novelist and bookstore owner than in anything else she might happen to be writing about.

It takes a long time to unlearn the engrained habits of youth. Fortunately, Ann Patchett’s personality does gradually begin to emerge. This makes the final quarter of the collection, which is arranged in order of publication, much more satisfying than the first quarter. Fans of Ann Patchett will be more than satisfied, since her life is certainly one worth telling, worth re-telling, and even perhaps worth inventing. I thoroughly enjoyed the long essay whose title is used for the collection as a whole. In another, I was struck by the poignant scene at the funeral of Eudora Welty when Welty’s elderly relations use Ann’s attendance (whom they do not know) as evidence for younger Welty relations that the recently deceased was indeed someone famous. For those of us curious about the practicalities of the writing life, there is much here, including insights into “Book Tour” which Patchett presents unarticled, not unlike “Fight Club” I suppose. And these days, the story of how Ann Patchett became perhaps the most famous independent bookstore owner in America has become, literally, front page news, which is here laid out in all its particulars.

None of these essays is overly challenging. Each is competently written. And some, the best of them, begin to evoke what the anxious reader might hope is a bit of the personal aura of Ann Patchett. Gently recommended.
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LibraryThing member tangledthread
I read Ann Patchett's [This is the Story of a Happy Marriage] last night as an audiobook, narrated by the author.

This is a collection of essays written over the past decade or so with most of them published elsewhere. Most of them are memoir material, having to do with growing up as a child of
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divorce, attending Catholic schools, the perils of MFA programs, dogs (one in particular, Rose), divorce & marriage, and the founding of Parnassus books. Much of the first part of the book is of interest to aspiring writers.

Having read several of her novels, I was interested in hearing more about how the author thinks, reads, and approaches writing. I was not disappointed. I gave it 4 stars.
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LibraryThing member porch_reader
I love Ann Patchett's fiction, so I approached this collection of essays with anticipation. I didn't hurt that several of you have written glowing reviews of this book either. And I wasn't disappointed. Ann Patchett has a unique, straightforward voice. In these stories of her life, her
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relationships, her decisions, she not only makes the personal universal, but she captures the nuances of each experience with so much precision and insight that I'd find myself nodding along. I liked the essays about her grandmother best because I felt like she was writing for me too. That's exactly how it was when my grandmother got dementia. But even when she entered territory that in no way resembled by own, such as when she tried out for the LAPD, I found myself drawn in, identifying with the way these events shaped her life.

These essays were originally written for various publications as a way for Patchett to support herself while she wrote novels, and that may have given them their clear voice. Patchett reflects, "The job of these essays had been to support art, not to be art, but maybe that was what spared them from self-consciousness." Patchett convinced me that writing about it is a good way to see a life clearly, as she does with her relationship with her husband:

"There are always those perfect times with the people we love, those moments of job and equality that sustain us later on. I am living that time with my husband now. I try to study our happiness so that I will be able to remember it in the future, just in case something happens and we find ourselves in need."

This is a beautiful collection of essays. Highly recommended!
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LibraryThing member bobbieharv
Such a wonderful writer she is. The chapter on writing should be read by all writers; the chapter on her marriage should be read by all married people! How she manages to craft such beautiful sentences is beyond me.
LibraryThing member ingrid98684
After my experience with Patchett's Bel Canto and State of Wonder, I snatched this up at the library without knowing anything about it. Turns out to be a collection of short stories (some shorter than others). Now, short stories are not my thing - I like big books, I cannot lie - but the writing is
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so beautiful and honest, that I'm reconsidering that position. It's like eating a box of chocolates, and each little bonbon is not only your favorite, but impossibly even more delicious than the one before.
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LibraryThing member muddyboy
A wonderful collection of essays on a wide variety of topics including how to succeed in writing, the joys of watching opera in HD at the local movie theater and the author's unexpected enjoyment camping in a Winnebago. We meet her first and second husbands, her beloved dog Rosie and a Nun and a
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very special grandmother who have been central players in her most interesting life. Ms. Patchett has a freshness and vibrancy both in her writing and the way she perceives the world that makes this a very special book.
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LibraryThing member rhussey174
I didn’t realize when I first picked up this book that it’s a collection of essays; I thought instead that it was a memoir. But I didn’t mind — I like both genres. And, as it turns out, the essays are mostly autobiographical, so I learned a lot about Patchett’s life by reading them.
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Patchett is a good writer, and I liked all of the essays, some more than others, of course. The most memorable one for me wasn’t the title essay, although that was very good, but “The Bookstore Strikes Back,” about opening Parnassus Books in Nashville. The essay is partly the history of the bookstore itself, but it’s also a passionate argument for the value of bookstores, and for the demand for them. Patchett argues that people are ready to support their local, independent bookstores, and I certainly hope she is right. Anyone at all tempted to open their own store would be encouraged by this essay to give it a try, maybe foolishly, maybe not. But at any rate, her enthusiasm is infectious.

The title essay is also very good, the story of Patchett’s two, very different, marriages. There are several essays about writing and literature, and those I liked, particularly one about going on book tours. Her essay on giving a convocation speech at Clemson University over the protests of students and parents who found her book Truth and Beauty offensive is very good. Overall, Patchett’s voice is engaging, and she seems like a fascinating, vibrant person. I’ll admit I felt some disappointment at times, especially with some of the less personal essays where Patchett’s own history and personality is not the focus, but I also felt this way about the collection as a whole. I wanted more depth, more complexity, more that felt surprising. The essays were solid, but not revelatory. Ultimately, although this is a strong collection, I felt that Patchett is best as a novelist.
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LibraryThing member whitreidtan
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member karieh
I have been entranced by Ann Patchett’s books ever since a book club I was in chose “Bel Canto” as the monthly pick. I was NOT thrilled with that choice. A novel about an opera singer? Hmm. So I put it off as long as I could…and once I finally picked it up – I fell in love with the sound
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of the words, the beauty of the images. After finishing that book, I read all of her backlist and have been a fan ever since.

“This is the Story of a Happy Marriage” gave me a chance to see behind the curtain, to see more of the person behind the words. Many of the essays are about Patchett’s life, and all of them involve her in one way or another. I liked them almost as much as I adore her fiction – possibly because she does not hold back when the subject matter calls for brutal honesty. The reader learns about her first marriage (and her divorce), her relationship with her grandmother, her relationship with her dog (both of which are beautiful and heartbreaking), and about some of the most difficult times of her life.

There is also the added benefit of getting a taste of her sense of humor. She is funny and self-deprecating and isn’t afraid to let the reader see her at less than her best. The stories about her week-long trip in a motor home, her experience taking the qualifying tests for the LAPD police academy are funny and fascinating.

And yet, the sections I enjoyed the most were the ones about writing. About her love for, frustration with and passion surrounding her craft. For one who always dreamed of being a writer, who went to college to study creative writing and one who loves books, this was almost akin to learning the secrets of a master magician – without any resulting disillusionment.

“This book I have not yet written one word of is a thing of indescribable beauty, unpredictable in its patterns, piercing in its color, so wild and loyal in its nature that my love for this book, and my faith in it as I track its lazy flight, is the single perfect joy in my life. It is the greatest novel in the history of literature, and I have thought it up, and all I have to do is put it down on paper and then everyone can see this beauty that I see.”

“And so I do. When I can’t think of another stall, when putting it off has actually become more painful than doing it, I reach up and pluck the butterfly from the air. I take it from the region of my head and I press it down against my desk, and there, with my own hand, I kill it. It’s not that I want to kill it, but it’s the only way I can get something that is so three-dimensional onto the flat page.”

And: “It’s a wonderful thing to find a great teacher, but we also have to find him or her at a time in life when we’re able to listen to and trust and implement the lessons we are given. The same is true of the books we read. I think that what influences us in literature comes less from what we love and more from what we happen to pick up in moments we are especially open.”

All of these fascinating, beautifully written, emotionally honest essays were a delight to read. And last but certainly not least? Reading about an author who then buys and promotes an independent bookstore (every reader’s dream – come on!) when the two big bookstores in her town close? Icing on the delicious and well-crafted cake.
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LibraryThing member froxgirl
This is a book of fine essays by one of the best writers around. I love Ann Patchett's fiction (Bel Canto, State of Wonder) but had not read any of her magazine articles until now. Truth and Beauty was also non-fic, the biography of Ann's dear friend Lucy Grealy, whose cancer of the jaw left her
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physically devastated but with a brilliant mind and soul. One of the essays here defends Truth and Beauty and Autobiography of a Face, Lucy's book, which were assigned freshman reading at a Southern college where parents of students attempted to censor the project. Ann's speech to the freshman class is her Gettysburg address of defense of literary freedom, though oddly enough, she repudiates the speech as pretentious later on.

Ann's deliciously complex marriage is the subject of the longest story and maybe the best. Everything here is grade A+++ choice. Don't miss it.
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LibraryThing member bakersfieldbarbara
I made a mistake by starting this book in the early evening; I read until I finished it, and loved it so much that I was a bit sad to have it end. I have never read Ann Patchett's books before, but I will now return this book to the library and leave with one of her earlier writings. I was caught
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up in here writings, perhaps, because I also, lived some of her lives...writing, divorce, dogs, marriage, but haven't we all found ourselves in a book as we read it? this one was different in that I enjoyed every essay, written from her heart and with such skill as to not be preaching or bragging. Her philosophy of life was to not quit anything and so I smiled as she scaled a six foot wall in order to join the LA police department. Perseverance was her motto, other than in marriage. "Never again" she said, but when she remarried, the essay brought joy to my heart. Ms Patchett showed us with her life decisions that she knows no obstacles, be it writing, loving or being a friend.

I've never wanted to truly meet and know an artist/writer before, but I would love to be able to be a friend to this exceptionally-talented lady. she has lived a life on her terms and her essays in this wonderful book give each of us courage to continue our life's path, even with detours and sharp turns.
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LibraryThing member jphamilton
This is one excellent collection of essays. She ranges from writing to family, death and dying to nuns and school, book tours to opening her bookstore, as well as many other subjects. Her writing is intelligent and shows a great deal of heart.
LibraryThing member dablackwood
I absolutely loved this book of essays. Ann Patchett writes about her journey to becoming a published author. It wasn't necessarily easy but it seems to have been inevitable. Other pieces feature her childhood, her first marriage, her current marriage and her friendship with Lucy Grealy. It is
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really a wonderful book.
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LibraryThing member 2wonderY
Patchett is a nice person to spend some time with, even if you are personally not interested in learning more about the craft of writing. She's a good companion to listen to during a car ride.
LibraryThing member carolfoisset
I love Ann Patchett. Truth and Beauty is my favorite, and this book is right up there. I enjoy Ann's essays that give me some insight into her life and the experiences that formed her. It was fun to find out the story of how her indie bookstore came to be.
LibraryThing member bookworm12
This collection of essays from one of my favorite authors covers a wide variety of topics, everything from working at TGIFridays to dogs. The way Patchett writes makes any topic interesting. She is truthful and blunt at times, even when discussing sensitive subjects like grief, censorship, and
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divorce, but it’s this honesty that makes it easy for a reader to feel connected. Her passion for different things come through in her writing and you find yourself getting sucked into stories about seeing MET opera productions in her local theatre, taking a book tour or staying in a hotel and doing nothing.

Most of these articles were published in various magazines (Atlantic Monthly, Wall Street Journal, etc.) over the years, but all of them were new to me. She also included a few new pieces to round out the book. She spent years making ends meet with her freelance work for magazine and that experience is evident in the structure of the essays. They flow smoothly, each one a self-contained piece that stands on its own, but also adds to the neat arch through her life that the book traces.

One of my favorites was a piece on her bookstore Parnassus in Nashville. I had the opportunity to visit it last year and I loved hearing more about the history of its creation. I also loved her pieces about her dog Rose. As a dog lover it’s easy to immediately relate to those.

BOTTOM LINE: Each essay offered the reader another glimpse into the writer’s world. I don’t know if I would have loved it so much if I wasn’t already a huge fan, but I am, so this was a treat all the way through.
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LibraryThing member nyiper
Ohhh---ten stars at least! I LOVED this! It's almost becomes a memoir rather than just her essays and how wonderful to see inside Ann Pachett all at once in one place. I was just sorry to come to the end of the book but at least I have already gathered up one of her earlier novels to read that I
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LibraryThing member anneearney
Funny, interesting essay.
LibraryThing member voracious
This is a compilation of Ann Patchett short stories and articles, which have been published in various magazines over the years. There are also several speeches included from university commencements. The chapters are each distinct and cover topics ranging from marriage, writing, pet ownership, and
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family obligations. Ann is such a wonderful writer and it is easy to feel that you know her well after reading these glimpses into her life. I found it particularly enjoyable since I had read "Truth & Beauty," which covered a specific period of Ann's writing career and her friendship with Lucy Grealy. A very enjoyable collection, although not particularly about marriage.
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LibraryThing member ursula
This is a collection of essays which I listened to in audiobook form. The narrator was Ann Patchett herself, which is a nice bonus. There's something about listening to the author tell you stories about her own life that just makes it a lot more immediate-seeming. The essay topics range from
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writing and going on book tours to the title one about marriage (spoiler: it's about an unhappy marriage as well as a happy one), to a couple of ones about her dog.

The best ones for me were "The Getaway Car," which was about writing, and "The Wall," which was about her attempt at the tests for the LAPD police academy. An odd thing happened while I was listening to the various essays, though, and that is that I began to like Ms. Patchett less and less. I can't point to exactly why that is, although her references to her long-time boyfriend/eventual husband seemed so unemotional that they were offputting. Also, her essay about her friend, writer Lucy Grealy (subject of Patchett's book Truth and Beauty, which I haven't read) just struck me as odd at points. In searching around for more information on the book, I found out that Grealy's family was not entirely happy that Patchett wrote that book, or with the timing and contents thereof.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that by the end of the audiobook, I was listening with a certain amount of distance I didn't have at the beginning. I'm sure Patchett would be a great companion for dinner, but I don't know that I'd want to spend much more time with her than that. However, her advice about being a writer (which applies to any creative field, and probably to a lot of others as well) is spot-on and well-stated. It boils down to: Sit. Write, or don't, but don't get up or do anything else until you've written something or decided that you're not going to write.
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LibraryThing member aslan7
This is the first nonfiction book of Ann Patchett's that I have read, and I picked it up after seeing her in conversation with Richard Russo. I was charmed by her in that interaction and anxious to read the book. I found the book less charming and actually a little confusing. In the talk she
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mentioned that one of her college teachers/mentors had said that you can't be a good writer if you are not a good person. The picture she paints of herself in the book is certainly not entirely the picture of a good person! It's not that all of us don't do mean or selfish things, but the "good" part of us usually indicates some remorse, or "firm purpose of amendment," as the Catholic version goes. There were two points in the book (or maybe three) where she exhibited behaviors that could be considered mean, selfish, but no real sign of regret. One of the episodes was so shocking that I recounted it to my family. My son said, "Why would she tell that story on herself?" Good question - probably because she doesn't go to confession any more.

That being said, there are other signs of nobility in her steadfast care of her grandmother, and her acute talent for friendships. The last chapter I read aloud to my husband. It is one of those passages that will stay with both of us, I think.

I read Richard Russo's "Elsewhere," and I came away liking him better as a person. Not so much with this book, though it confirmed her amazing skill as a writer. And in a way it gives the lie to the belief of her college professor. I am not sure I see her as a good person but she is a most formidable writer.
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Original language


Physical description

306 p.; 5.31 inches


0062236687 / 9780062236685
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