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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terse Yet Resonant and Always Finds the Right Words, 3 Nov. 2013
This review is from: This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage (Hardcover)
THIS IS THE STORY OF A HAPPY MARRIAGE brings together several previously- published, and some new, non-fiction essays from beloved New York Times best-selling American writer Ann Patchett. Patchett, author of multi-prize winning Bel Canto and State of Wonder, here blends literature and memoir. In these essays, read in The Atlantic, Harper's, Vogue and the Washington Post, Patchett examines her life, looking at some of her nearest and dearest commitments: to family, friends, her husband Karl, her dog, and writing. As ever, Patchett's work is admirably terse, yet resonant, as the book stretches from her California childhood through her upbringing in Nashville, Tennessee, her unhappy first marriage, the flora and fauna of Tennessee, the hard, lonely grift of writing, and the fun of opening Parnassus, her own Nashville bookstore, simply because the town needed one.

The author's writing, six novels and two books of nonfiction, boasts sparkling " mots just," as the French would say: finds just the perfect words for the occasion. Let me just give you a quote from the book at hand here, which, as it happens, is the opening paragraph of her introduction:

The tricky thing about being a writer, or about being any kind of artist, is that in addition to making art you also have to make a living. My short stories and novels have always filled my life with meaning, but, at least in the first decade of my career, they were no more capable of supporting me than my dog was. But part of what I love about both novels and dogs is that they are so beautifully oblivious to economic concerns. We serve them, and in return they thrive. It isn't their responsibility to figure out where the rent is coming from.

The writer's novels are deeply imagined and researched: the two I've read, both set in South America, have been extraordinary. The fourth, BEL CANTO tells the story of an opera singer held hostage, along with several others, in an embassy in an unnamed country that sounds a lot like Peru during its Shining Path insurrection. Its writer here states that writing/researching it gave her her lifelong love for opera, a sublime entertainment of which she was previously ignorant. She expresses her gratitude for the present-day live HD opera broadcasts which many of us, not fortunate enough to live in major cities, have come to enjoy. STATE OF WONDER gives us an unknown Indian tribe along a tributary of the mighty Amazon River. The tribe has found herbal remedies in its surroundings, some of them unique and useful enough for whispers of their existence to have reached major American pharmaceutical companies.

BEL CANTO won both the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in 2002, was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and was named the Book Sense Book of the Year. It's sold more than a million copies in the United States and been translated into more than 30 languages. Luckily for me, my mystery book club read this book and thereby introduced me to Patchett, with whom, as a confirmed mystery reader, I was not then familiar. Loved BEL CANTO, absolutely loved it, but did not review it here, didn't feel competent to do so. But through the kind agency of Amazon Vine, I was able to read and review STATE OF WONDER here: like critics and viewers worldwide, I loved it. Loved, absolutely loved THIS IS THE STORY OF A HAPPY MARRIAGE as well. Thank you, book club, am so thankful to have made Patchett's acquaintance.
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