When a friend and fellow avid reader (thanks Cheryl!) told me she had loved this collection by one of my favourite authors, I bought it immediately, but it has taken me some time to finish because I read selections over time. I enjoy using short stories and essays as a palate cleanser between novels.
Patchett started her career writing articles for magazines which eventually saved her from waitressing. She had to really hone her craft because frankly, if you can’t write well when it is your bread and butter, you won’t have food on your table. She stored these early pieces in a tupperware bin, and never wanted to see them again. But that bin was discovered by a friend who suggested it had potential as a book. The result is a brilliant memoir of deeply personal yet unsentimental essays sparkling with Patchett’s warm and incisive storytelling.
This is not just about marriage, there are many topics in it ranging from taking a gruelling admissions test for the LAPD to why she hates Christmas but loves dogs and children (but has never had any kids of her own). I appreciate her candor about the rocky road of divorce that she had to navigate and an interesting journey that eventually led to a happy marriage. Her early essays contain a lot of good and practical advice for prospective writers. There is a story that many will resonate with about caring for her aging grandmother, and a heartfelt tribute to a little white dog who was with her for 16 years. This tribute rivalled my own tribute to a little white dog, however mine never appeared in Vogue magazine! She is passionate about independent bookstores and started her own in Nashville, against all odds. If you are ever in Nashville, make Parnassus Books a stop on the tour. You might just run into the author and meet her dachshund!
If you are new to Patchett, her novels are well worth reading. Award winning Bel Canto is an exquisite novel about a hostage taking in an opera house. Also riveting is State of Wonder which has the best snake story ever.