I am so NOT into essay collections, so when my friend loaned me this book several months ago, I read a couple of essays and then lost interest. However, when one of my (many) book clubs insisted on reading it, I picked it up again and had an epiphany: I didn’t have to read every essay! I could pick and choose and just read the ones that appealed to me. And with this new approach I discovered … that I REALLY liked a whole bunch of them. Actually, they were spectacular. Not a surprise — Ann Patchett is one of my favorite authors. I’ve seen her speak and have read all of her novels. It’s just that some topics are more interesting (to me) than others — I’m sure your experience will vary from mine. I haven’t come across another author who is as articulate when expressing absolutely relatable (to me) thoughts and feelings — her own and her characters’. There is nothing like that responding spark of whole hearted recognition / identification I get when she summarizes an entire state of being in just a line or two. As an aside, almost every one of these essays ends with the perfect line.
Some of my favorite essays from this collection: The Fathers — a memoir about marriages and the abundance of family that comes from multiple attempts ; My Year of No Shopping — a brilliant depiction of understanding her own motivations to shop far beyond what she needed; To The Doghouse — I won’t summarize, suffice it to say that Snoopy has a surprising and wonderful part to play; There Are No Children Here — one of my favorites — an ingenious, insightful, and surprising diatribe on society’s reaction to women who do not want to have children; Reading Kate Di Camillo — just wow! Last but certainly not least, the titular These Precious Days — heartbreaking, beautiful, and simultaneously full of joy.