There are a few authors that I have read every book they have written, and a few of them I have had the pleasure of seeing in person. Ann Patchett is one of those authors. Her new book: “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage” is a book that is not in the usual realm of her writing. It is a compilation of articles she has written over the years, many that were published in magazines. While they are each stories that were written years apart, her writing, story, and life are weaved so well together that they flow so beautifully, you would have thought they were written together on purpose.
You learn about her younger years and the oddity of her childhood, about taking care of her grandma, about her early years of writing, her dogs, her marriages, and the ups and downs of a writer’s life. Her other books are novels, ones that once you open and get into the story, you are a goner. You might as well know that after the first few pages, you’ll be snuggling on the couch for the long haul. Cancel any plans that you have made, you will not want to put any of her novels down.
Patchett does have a memoir “Truth and Beauty” that is about her life with her best friend and author, Lucy Grealy, yet “This is a Story of a Happy Marriage” goes deeper in many more aspects of her life and she communicates many ideas that resonate on marriage, family, and the writing life. This idea particularly stood out to me about openness:
“It’s a wonderful thing to find a great teacher, but we also have to find him or her at a time in life when we’re able to listen to and trust and implement the lessons we are given. The same is true of the books we read. I think that what influences us in literature comes less from what we love and more from what we happen to pick up in moments when we are especially open.” Page 33
This happens so often for me. I gravitate towards a book and I am not sure why, and then as I begin to read and absorb the ideas shared, I gradually, page by page learn a bit more about myself. You know the books that do that for you. The ones with a plethora of highlighted, dog-eared, or post-it note adorned pages all with ideas that you want to remember, cherish, or share with another individual. This book did that for me. Her story and life experience made me think about my life experience and story and I found myself jotting down notes of special moments from my life that I want to put on paper.
I encourage you to read “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.” It is slow in the beginning and takes a bit more to get into than her novels, but once you get to know her a bit more I know you will find a few morsels to take away.