Wednesday, June 3, 2015

This is the Story of a Happy MarriageThis is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One might assume from the title that this nonfiction book by the author of the award-winning novel “Bel Canto,” is a memoir of her marriage. She is happily married, but the book is a collection of essays. She writes about all the loves of her life, the ones lost as well as the ones that have stayed, or that she’s kept.

The first two essays, about writing and process, were of interest to a group of avid readers. The rest of the essays, published in magazines from Seventeen to Gourmet to Outside (with a graduation address thrown in), are of general interest. Dogs and family, taking the entrance exam for the Los Angeles Police Academy, lovers and friendships, the dead and the living—most people of a certain age who lived through the 1970s will relate.  Locals will relate to her thrill at the video broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera, live and close-up in a Nashville movie theater. In one of the essays she talks about writers telling only one story, no matter how many books they write.  The human story itself can be seen as one story: life, love, and loss, the theme. Patchett is honest with her truths of the heart and knows her way around building both sentence and story—a reader’s delight.

In retrospect, considering the work it takes to hold on to love and to let love go, the title makes emotional sense. It looks like “Bel Canto” will always be my favorite of her books; sometimes the first book you read by someone retains the gloss of first love. But I am very happy to have read this one.

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