In a series of essays, the beloved novelist opens the door and invites you into her world.
As she herself is aware, Patchett has a gift for friendship—never clearer than in the magical and heartbreaking title essay, which made the rounds from friend to friend by way of texted links when originally published in Harper’sduring the pandemic. (If you haven't read it yet, get ready for Tom Hanks, Kundalini yoga, cancer treatment, and a profound yearning to be a guest in Patchett's Nashville home.) Like This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage(2013), this book contains a mixture of occasional essays and profound ones, all previously published. Patchett includes the text of a wonderful lecture on her "feral" experience in graduate school in Iowa and an introduction written for the collected stories of Eudora Welty that seems as perfect as the stories themselves. In addition to family and friendship—"Three Fathers" and "Flight Plan" are standouts in this category—several essays deal with aspects of the writing life. The author explores the process of managing one’s papers and offers various angles on how one comes to the vocation of literature. "Influence," she writes, "is a combination of circumstance and luck: what we are shown and what we stumble upon in those brief years when our hearts and minds are fully open." Patchett also writes delightfully about Snoopy, the cartoon beagle and would-be novelist, first among her literary influences. Toward the end of the book, Patchett digs into Updike, Bellow, and Roth. Perhaps a few of the slighter pieces could have been left out, but even those have great lines and interesting paragraphs. A bracingly testy essay about the author’s decision not to have children will give readers crucial pointers on conversational gambits to avoid should you ever get that houseguest invitation.
An enviable life shared with candor, emotion, and knockout storytelling power.