Thursday, March 13, 2014

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett


This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
by Ann Patchett
narrated by Ann Patchett
Harper Audio, 2013
11 hours and 35 minutes
source: purchased

Publisher's summary:
Blending literature and memoir, Ann Patchett, author of State of Wonder and Bel Canto examines her deepest commitments: to writing, family, friends, dogs, books, and her husband in This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. Together, these essays, previously published in The Atlantic, Harper, Vogue, and The Washington Post, form a resonant portrait of a life lived with loyalty and with love.

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.

My thoughts:

As much as I've enjoyed reading Ann Patchett's novels over the years, I'm beginning to think nonfiction is her true calling. This is The Story of a Happy Marriage, her latest book, is a collection of essays. Most have been previously published and I'd even read a few, yet they seemed more powerful when collected.

From unhappy childhood Christmas memories to the obligatory advice for would-be writers, the book also includes Patchett's essays about opening an independent bookstore in Nashville and her controversial convocation address delivered at Clemson University. The piece about her grandmother's death had me literally sobbing on an early morning beach walk. {Thank God for sunglasses!} The same thing happened as she said goodbye to her beloved dog, Rose, a few essays later. Patchett also shares the story of her brief, disastrous first marriage, and recounts how her second marriage, the happy one, came to be.

The reader begins to know and understand Patchett through her essays, and listening to the author read her own work imparts an even greater sense of intimacy. Her voice is very pleasant, too. If you listen to audiobooks, I highly recommend choosing the audio version here.

All in all, this collection is a perfect blend of the writing life and life experiences. The essays are thought-provoking, interesting, and moving, and I would be hard-pressed to select a favorite. Patchett's Truth and Beauty  was a nonfiction favorite back in 2005 and I'm sure This is the Story of a Happy Marriage will be on my list this year.

My rating:


36 comments:

  1. I read State of Wonder and have this on my Goodreads wishlist. Your review makes me want to move this up near the top of my list now. Good review, sealed the deal for me.

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    1. Rita - Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Patchett is such a talented writer!

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  2. I agree with you on nonfiction being Patchett's true calling. She writes like a master, someone who really knows what she's doing. I've already read this but I may have to listen to it on audio too.

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    1. Vasilly - The audio is fantastic... definitely worth rereading in this format!

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  3. I haven't read her at all, so It's wonderful to have this to look forward to. I will definitely take your advice about the audio version...hearing the author's voice reading her work has to deepen the experience in a wonderful way!

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    1. Audrey - You'll have the advantage of knowing and understanding Patchett if you decide to read (or listen!) to this before exploring her fiction.

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  4. I loved, loved, loved Truth and Beauty. So, after reading your thoughts, I must get a hold of this one. Thanks!
    Judith

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    1. Judith - If you loved Truth and Beauty, you met read this book!

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  5. I've only read one of her works of fiction. I liked it but didn't love it. I have a feeling I'd like this more.

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    1. Kathy - I've read and enjoyed all of her novels, but I really think she has a gift for nonfiction.

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  6. Oh my land, I got teary-eyed reading about her grandmother in print - I definitely would have been sobbing listening to her tell the story!

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    1. Lisa - If you're like me, you would have been an even bigger mess listening to her read that essay... oh, the tears!

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  7. I heard her interviewed on NPR about this book and it really appealed to me. Have recommended it to my book club, but I think I'll get to it soon whether we read it as a group or not. Though it seems like a good book club choice.

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    1. Karen - The book is excellent... I hope you like it as much as I did. Off to look for the NPR interview now. Thanks!

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  8. Thanks for your great review. I have this on my To Read list. I am not familiar with this author, but it sounds like she has done a wonderful job at writing about her past.

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    1. Pat - Even if you're not familiar with her fiction, you can't help but like her after reading these essays.

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  9. I think I would love this book--I enjoy the essay format, and seems like a good way to do a memoir.

    Thanks for the recommendation. Yes, thank goodness for sunglasses! :)

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    1. JaneGS - I really enjoyed the essay format and plan to add more to my reading!

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  10. I have not read Bel Canto but I've had it with me for ages. This sounds like a book I would like to read too. Thank you!

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    1. 5eyedbookworm - It seems like Bel Canto is Patchett's most famous novel, but surprisingly it is my least favorite. Hope you get a chance to read her essays.

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  11. This is on my tbr list and you've made me want to read it even more. I'm waiting for the paperback. Yes, I think Patchett is pretty good at non-fic. Truth and Beauty was very moving.

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    1. Vintage Reading - I think you'll love this one!

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  12. I loved this, too, and it was the first of her nonfiction that I've read, although I think I've listened to all of her fiction on audio, for some reason. I've heard a lot about Truth and Beauty, and maybe I'll try it soon.

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    1. Laurie C - I don't remember many specifics of Truth and Beauty, but I know I absolutely loved... and went on to read Autobiography of a Face immediately afterwards.

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  13. I love nonfiction works like this and my only dilemma is whether to buy the hardback version so I can highlight passages or download the audio so I can hear the author read to me. Maybe both?

    I loved Bel Canto, but still have State of Wonder in my stacks. Must get to that one this year.

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    1. Les - LOL, I know that feeling. When I began listening to Anna Quindlen's Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake I had to stop at B&N and but a hardcover copy after the first hour - so, so good and definitely an all-time favorite. This one didn't have quite that effect, but I loved it nonetheless.

      As far as Bel Canto, it's actually my least favorite of her novels. For years I've felt I should reread it because I must have missed something. I still liked it, but just never understood all the fuss.

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  14. I'm not much for collections like this but I may actually enjoy it if I listened to it. It seems I find things more interesting on audio. A glowing recommendation from you doesn't hurt either. Lol.

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    1. Darlene - I'm sure I would have enjoy this in print, too, but listening to the author read her own essays was wonderful! It seemed so much more real and personal.

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  15. I'm even more excited about this one now! I loevd Truth and Beauty too.

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    1. Melissa - Ann's friendship with Lucy comes up in at least a couple of the essays in this book, too. Have you read Autobiography of a Face? I had to pick that up immediately after finishing Truth and Beauty.

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  16. Loving everything Patchett writes I know I will definitely like this book but I haven't been able to get into yet. I keep getting stuck in the first 2 (yes 2) pages.

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    1. Thomas - I think those first two pages (and the entire first essay, actually) are mostly what she considers to be obligatory advice for would-be writers. It gets much more personal and interesting after that. I've loved everything Patchett has written and doubt this will disappoint.

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  17. I love when authors read their own work successfully. I'm not a huge essay reader, but I think the audio sounds good :)

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  18. Stacybuckeye - I'm not much of an essay reader myself, but this audio collection is outstanding.

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