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.
I love Ann Patchett’s books. The reflective, perfectly paced books focus on life and the intricate intersections between characters that give life its shape. This story follows Lara along a dual timeline. In the present, she is the mother of three grown daughters, each pursuing different interests — one will take over the orchard Lara and her husband run in Northern Michigan; one will be a vet; and one longs to be an actress. The narrative takes a jump backwards as she tells her daughters the story of her pre-orchard life. Some parts are stories well loved and often told, others have not been told before, and a few are only whispered in her own mind (and — obviously — to us).
This previous life features Lara the actress — once on the fast track to fame and glory. The threads come together beautifully, as always — Patchett is a master of her craft. The stories don’t really go the way you would imagine because life never does. No twisty surprises, just different paths taken, each a result of experiences and self insight. I was completely drawn in from page one and never felt like stopping. Would happily befriend her whole family.
Thank you to Harper and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on August 8th, 2023
A family drama told largely through recollection in a loosely ordered, but well-timed set of memories. Danny tells the story — full of recognition of his then-obliviousness — of himself, his older sister Maeve, and their sometimes senseless path through life. Much of the story centers around the Dutch House — the outrageously lavish estate purchased by their newly-minted real estate mogul father at the end of WWII) — which purchase begins the unraveling of their family.
I’m a big Ann Patchett fan — her insight into character and how it is expressed and molded by events and situations is incomparable. While sometimes frustrating in the cluelessness of characters (as seen from our safe reader’s perch) and lack of closure, the story is ultimately a realistic portrayal of the way lives and relationships evolve and what we do and don’t learn from the path. It’s one of those books that gets even better the more you think about it after reading, although to be honest it is not one of my favorite Patchetts.
Thank you to Harper Collins Publishers and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on September 24th, 2019.