- Paperback: 306 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (October 7, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062236687
- ISBN-13: 978-0062236685
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 502 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,496 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage Paperback – Deckle Edge, October 7, 2014
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*Starred Review* This is the story of how best-selling novelist Patchett (State of Wonder, 2011) became a writer. As a young child in California and, after her parents’ divorce, Nashville, she knew she had to write, and she was fortunate, as she so warmly and vividly explains, in her writing teachers—Allan Gurganus, Grace Paley, and Russell Banks—and in her success supporting herself by writing nonfiction for magazines and newspapers, beginning with Seventeen and extending to the New York Times Magazine, GQ, Vogue, and Gourmet. Patchett now assembles a retrospective set of 22 sterling personal essays to form an episodic, piquant, instructive, and entertaining self-portrait. She reflects on her family, life on a Tennessee farm, literary discipline and inspiration, and her failed first marriage. Her second marriage is central to her hilarious account of an RV road trip, and the full measure of Patchett’s toughness and daring surfaces in “The Wall,” a riveting account of her father, a captain when he retired after 30 years on the Los Angeles police force, coaching her as she takes the grueling admission test for the Los Angeles Police Academy. A self-described “workhorse” who has even opened an independent bookstore, Patchett is a commanding and incisive storyteller, whether her tales are true or imagined. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“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)
“Patchett’s mastery of nonfiction [is] every bit the equal of her skill as a novelist.” (Shelf Awareness)
“All the essays were a joy to read...No matter your interest, you’ll find words in this book that speak to you.” (Real Simple)
“Each of the essays is its own delight and resonates with warmth and humor… If read straight through, the book presents a lovely and lyrical look at a life well lived.” (Library Journal)
“Readable and candid, Patchett’s collection is a joyful celebration of life, love and the written word.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Reading Patchett is like spending time with a deeply perceptive longtime pal, or a new friend that one instantly connects with.” (USA Today)
“[A] sparkling collection.” (The New Yorker)
“Happy marriage, compelling writing and all worthy endeavor requires hard work. That’s Patchett’s strength. And she does a fine job.” (Miami Herald)
“Patchett … is one of our best contemporary novelists. This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage reminds us that she is an exceptional writer of nonfiction, too. Her prose is a pleasure to read, regardless of genre.” (Dallas Morning News)
“Novelist Ann Patchett’s excellent essay collection ranges from dogs to writing to white-knuckled air travel.” (Christian Science Monitor)
“While being an artistic crafter of words, Patchett also has a storyteller’s ability to sketch a moment so vividly you can’t fail to see how her own writing life was developed.” (Aspen Daily News)
“In this heartfelt collection of autobiographical essays, the novelist opens up about love, friendship, and family, exhibiting the compassionate voice that is a hallmark of her fiction.” (O, the Oprah Magazine)
“It is a feat that Ann Patchett remains so lovable as a narrator, and so engaging as a storyteller, when writing about her excellent career, personal life, dog, and husband.” (Newsday)
“Patchett’s is a no-nonsense voice: clear, sane, companionable… [T]he funny, frank and nervy ‘The Getaway Car’ (possibly worth the book’s price) plunges readers, roller-coaster style, into the story of Patchett’s writing life—essentially, this collection’s real subject.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“[I]n this terrific, wide-ranging collection, Patchett demonstrates how a pro does it.” (NPR's Fresh Air)
“All of the essays, which have been collected from her magazine work over two decades, are excellent. Patchett writes enviable prose—fluid, simple, direct, clear, and fearless…” (Esquire.com)
“Ann Patchett most definitely has something to say, in her fully realized and beautiful voice.” (Huffington Post)
“[A]ll of the periodical pieces collected are finely polished, worthy of their packaging between two hard covers.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
“Writing of loss and of the complications of love, Patchett lets down her guard … and opens both her sense of humor and her heart.” (Columbus Dispatch)
“Wit-filled and elegantly executed” (Entertainment Weekly)
“The best advertisement for Ann Patchett’s new collection of nonfiction is anything else Ms. Patchett has written...Ms. Patchett’s style is not overly confessional, but it is beguiling in ways that make her sound like someone you’d want to know.” (New York Times)
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Everyone should give it a fair shake. I promise there is something for everyone reading this blog.
Patchett is best known as a novelist (about which, more later), but she has long been an essayist. Her pieces have appeared in the NY Times, Harpers, Vogue, Atlantic, The Bark, and more. She has collected some of her best work here and arranged it somewhat chronologically. It is almost a memoir. The essay from which the book takes its title is near the end, and by that time we like her and want her happy. It is no spoiler to reveal there is a happy ending. But before we get there Patchett recounts a childhood scarred by divorce, school years marked by a near inability to read and write, good and bad relationships and friendships, hard work, a few lucky breaks, and ultimately a life of success and satisfaction. As in life, it's the journey in which the interest lies - not the destination.
In the Introduction Patchett declares her book is "full of example and advice." She really delivers in "The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life." One of her great gifts is an ability to link unlikely elements to create a clear and immediate focus. This essay, which is the longest in the book, is the best I have ever read about writing. It is also a primer for life. She is practical, honest, funny and not especially patient or encouraging because writing, like life, is to be taken seriously and attacked with discipline. In "On Responsibility" she tenderly connects the trials and pleasures of caring for her aged, confused grandmother, and her dog, Rose. In between, she tries out for the LAPD, edits The Best American Short Stories 2006 poolside at the Bel Air Hotel, and delivers a kick-ass speech at Clemson College. And more, much more.
If you haven't read Ann Patchett's novels, you should. Her biggest hit was Bel Canto, the tale of an opera singer amongst a group of hostages in a South American country. Personally, I liked State of Wonder better. Run was my favorite, but The Patron Saint of Liars (now that is a great title) is close behind.
If you are new to her, I suggest you start with this book of essays. Knowing her will deepen your reading experience. She talks to her dog, loves her Granny, opens an independent bookstore, and goes on the Winnebago vacation from hell. In the best tradition of good writers, she drove me to look up "sestinas" and "villanelles" as well as what sounds like the best and most complicated apple pie recipe on the planet. Read this book. You'll love it.
My book club decided to read this collection because we thought it would be a quick read (and it was) and because we've enjoyed Patchett's books so much she is the only author I can think of that, when she publishes something new, we always consider it and nearly always read it. Now, this is not a perfect book, but Patchett is an excellent writer and does non-fiction as well as she does fiction. I wasn't aware of her background as a magazine contributor, but it wasn't at all surprising to see that in both types of writing she visits many of the same themes generally very artfully. I loved that in the first few pages she mentioned her early work with Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, author of Random Family, one of my all-time favorite books.
OK, so some of the essays were a bit long for me (but she actually even touches on that, noting that her non-fiction was always a slave to the word count required by the publisher) but they were all good, some great (particular standouts for me were the story of her RV trip with her estranged partner, lifelong friendship with an elderly nun, her adult relationship with her grandmother (the reference to "picking up the horrible fried-fish planks from Captain D's she loved" (213) made me laugh out loud....I used to do the very same thing for my grandmother, only she preferred Long John Silver's) and her recounting of the controversy when [title: Truth and Beauty] was selected as Clemson's freshman class read).
And then, oh, the dog stories. Any animal lover will fall a little in love with Rose and I'm not ashamed to say I had the patented Oprah-ugly-cry while reading "Dog Without End" which is one of the most beautiful tributes I've ever read. My husband and I don't have children, but do have beloved dogs so I have lived through the same comments she and her husband receive, that dogs are just a placeholder (then, later, a substitute) for children and I love how she shuts down those "well-meaning" folk, describing exactly how I feel, "'Look at that,' people said, looking at me and not Rose. 'Look how badly she wants a baby.' A baby? I held up my dog for them to see, my bright, beautiful dog. 'A dog,' I said. 'I've always wanted a dog.' The truth is, I have no memory of ever wanting a baby. I have never peered longingly into someone else's stroller. I have, on occasions too numerous to list, bent down on the sidewalk to rub the ears of strange dogs, to whisper to them about their limpid eyes." (75-76). Exactly. And in one sentence she sums up my feelings about dogs with pedigrees (yes, I DO judge people who buy and don't adopt. I do. I try to be a better person than that, but then see the heartbreaking photos of pets nobody wants.) Rose was a "Parking Lot Dog, dropped off in a snowstorm to meet her fate" (77). There are way too many Parking Lot Roses out there - if we buy dogs and don't adopt from shelters or rescues, we are saying they aren't valuable enough to save. So, there's my PSA for the day.
However, my adoration for Patchett blossomed into something else when she compared her relationship with her grandmother to her relationship with Rose. When I lost my maternal grandmother (I was in my thirties) I explained it to my husband in the very same terms that Patchett uses - love for an elderly grandparent is often so similar to the love you have for your dogs, because it's so clear, so true and so unmarked by disappointment and constant change. I was just gutted an felt I was experiencing it again. I marked a lot more dog lines so I could save them for myself.
So, if you like Ann Patchett, read this. if you love essays or great magazine writing, read it. If you love dogs, read the dog essays, then read the whole thing.