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This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Ann Patchett, HarperCollins, 2013, 284 pp
I do not usually read essay collections and that is what this book is. But I was going to see Ann Patchett speak in Santa Barbara for which I had already bought a ticket and had gas plus restaurant meals to cover. Why not splurge on an ebook?
It was not a splurge. It was a necessity! I have read and loved four of Ann Patchett's six novels. I adore her for opening an independent bookstore in Nashville, TN. Her approach to life and to fiction speaks to me. She is basically a kind and hopeful person but not perfect, not mushy, and she admits it. Both the book and her talk showed how she became the person she is.
The talk: she did not read excerpts from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. Author events where the writer reads from his or her latest book bore me to death. She spoke seemingly off the top of her head as she walked about on the edge of the stage. There was a podium but she never stood behind it once. It was like she was making up a rambling story full of many events, many emotions, humor and even suspense. By the end, I realized it was the story of how her new essay collection came to be.
The collection itself is as entertaining as her talk. How she became a novelist, how she got out of a bad marriage by making divorce a sacrament, how she integrated both a sad confusing childhood and a Catholic education into a happy successful life, and more.
Now that I think of it, I have read essay collections by some of my favorite authors: Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, and Sara Paretsky come to mind. Apparently if someone can write well, they write essays well.
(This is the Story of a Happy Marriage is available in hardcover and eBook by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)