Thursday, December 12, 2013

Review: This is the Story Of A Happy Marriage

This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage
By Ann Patchett
Harper November 2013
320 pages
From the library  

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage

Ann Patchett is known as a novelist. Her books Bel Canto, Run, and State of Wonder are beloved by readers all over the world. But Patchett began her career as a magazine writer. She provided articles for publications like Seventeen and Atlantic Monthly on topics as diverse as traveling cross country in an RV to taking care of her elderly grandmother. While these selections may seem a random collection, they work together wonderfully and show readers a new side of Ms. Patchett's writing and her personal life. 

This collection was stunning. I am starting to believe that Patchett can write about anything. A part of her power as a writer comes from her gentle honesty. She is willing to write about some of the most painful and difficult periods of her time with kindness for herself and for the others in her life. While the subjects in the essays vary from her husband to an elderly nun to a dog, her compassion for each sheds light onto Ann Patchett as a person. 

While reading this book, I vacillated between wanting to hide away and read every single page and wanting to read each selection slowly, leaving time to really let Patchett's words sink in. There is a unique and wonderful feeling when you finish an article or short story and just feel satisfied as a reader. You feel as if there is no need to read another article or book because that one piece was just perfect. I felt this way at the end of each article and I would be hard pressed to choose a favorite because I enjoyed all of them.

One of my favorite passages is from her article about writing, but it is so relevant to everyday life. "Forgiveness. The ability to forgive oneself. Stop here for a few breaths and think about this because it is the key to making art, and very possibly the key to finding any semblance of happiness in life. Every time I have set out to translate the book (or story, or hopelessly long essay) that exists in such brilliant detail on the big screen of my limbic system onto a piece of paper (which, let's face it, was once a towering tree crowned with leaves and a home to birds), I grieve for my own lack of talent and intelligence. Every. Single. Time. Were I smarter, more gifted, I could pin down a closer facsimile of the wonders I see. I believe, more than anything, that this grief of constantly having to face down out own inadequacies is what keeps people from being writers. Forgiveness, therefore, is key. I can't write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing. Again and again throughout the course of my life I will forgive myself."

This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage is one of my favorite books of the year. Non-fiction sometimes lives in the shadow of fiction, but Patchett writes as beautifully about the details of opening her bookstore or finding her beloved dog as she did about the lives and loves of the characters in her novels. By reading this book, I feel that I know Ann Patchett better, have new respect for her art, and found new inspiration for creating my own. This book is one you don't want to miss. 


  1. Brilliant review, Lindsey! So glad to know that you liked Ann Patchett's book so much! I love essay collections and so it is nice to know that this is a collection of her magazine articles on diverse topics. I loved that passage you have quoted from the book. And I loved this sentence from your review - "By reading this book, I feel that I know Ann Patchett better, have new respect for her art, and found new inspiration for creating my own." And I loved the cover of the book - beautiful and minimalistic. I will add this book to my 'TBR' list. Thanks for this beautiful review.

    1. Thanks for reading it! It's such a great experience as a reader when you find a book you want to get everyone to read. :)

  2. I've really enjoyed all of Ann Patchett's books that I've read. I'm an especially big fan of Truth and Beauty (her memoir of friendship with Lucy Grealy), so I've been very curious about this collection because she seems to do non-fiction as well or, dare I say, better than her fiction. From your review, it sounds like it might live up to my lofty expectations! =D

    1. There are a few articles about Truth and Beauty, specifically regarding how it was assigned as the freshman reading at Clemson U and they made a big stink about it. You should definitely pick this one up since you are a Patchett fan. :)