Blending literature and memoir, 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.
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I’ve been a fan of Ann Patchett since reading her brilliant masterpiece of a book, Bel Canto. I have an insane amount of longing to visit the bookstore she is co-owner of in Nashville, TN (Parnassus Books), and every time her name comes up in my email, on the internet, or in conversation, I have to hold myself back from squealing in delight and rushing insert myself into whatever is being talked about.
So I was thrilled when I received an opportunity to review this memoir, this very, very important memoir that spoke so loudly to me right now in my life. In This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Patchett does not talk just about her marriage, but about other extremely important things. Finding oneself, censorship, writing, schooling, job searching, living life, love, and most importantly, always pushing toward what makes one happy. The message that came across loud and clear in Patchett’s memoir is that life is short and we have to make the most of it, doing what we love the most.
While Patchett’s life worked out for her in a fantastic way, it is by no means a model for everyone, and she readily admits that. Moments came in her life, opportunities that she grabbed at and things worked out in her favor. That is, I think, the message she was trying to get across. There is no set pattern that can guarantee success in life; rather, one has to live life, grab opportunities, strive to be the best person they can be not only for themselves, but for those they love as well. There is no need to cave to pressure (I really appreciated her staunch stance on having children. I struggle with some of the same issues when people try to pressure me into believing that I am something less than normal for not wanting to get married), but stand firm in your beliefs and things will work out the way they work out.
I’m working on writing a novel for the first time in my life, thanks to NaNoWriMo this year. It’s the first time I’ve even come close to approaching 10k words and I am watching as my own life heavily influences my writing. Patchett took time in one of her essays to talk about this phenomenon and it re-assured me. If a writer who is as magnificent as Patchett recognizes exactly what I’m going through as I start to explore my writing potential, then surely I am on the right path to finding something that works for me. It was encouragement that I needed right then and I’m so glad this book came into my life at this time.
Another important essay included in this collection was Patchett’s convocation speech at Clemson University concerning her book, Truth and Beauty. It’s a gorgeous speech and one that shouts loudly for people to read, to think, to make decisions for themselves and not cave to the overwhelmingly heavy hand of censorship. That speech alone is worth the price of the book – but you will also get many, many beautiful essays that will make you laugh and cry.
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage is not just about marriage. It’s about life. And this reader has no intention of ever marrying, but I found something in this book that spoke to me. I suggest you give it the chance to do the same for you.
About the Author
Ann Patchett is the author of six novels, The Patron Saint of Liars, Taft, The Magician’s Assistant, Bel Canto, Run, and State of Wonder. She was the editor ofBest American Short Stories, 2006, and has written three books of nonfiction,Truth & Beauty, about her friendship with the writer, Lucy Grealy, What now? an expansion of her graduation address at Sarah Lawrence College, and, most recently, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, a collection of essays that examines the theme of commitment.
A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Patchett has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including England’s Orange Prize, PEN/Faulkner Award, the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Book Sense Book of the Year, a Guggenheim Fellowship, The Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize, The Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the American Bookseller’s Association’s “Most Engaging Author Award”, and the Women’s National Book Association’s Award. Her books have been both New York Times Notable Books and New York Times bestsellers. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages.
In November, 2011, she opened Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, with her partner Karen Hayes. She has since gone on to be a spokesperson for independent booksellers, talking about books and bookstores on “The Colbert Report,” NPR, “The Martha Stewart Show” and “The CBS Early Show.” Along with James Patterson she was the honorary chair of World Book Night. In 2012 she was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.
Ann Patchett lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, Karl VanDevender, and their dog, Sparky.
For more reviews on This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett, please visit the book tour.