A Writer Reading: Variety of essays was an unexpected hit

 

Sarah Hanberry Baker

Ann Patchett’s collection of essays, “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage” (2014), records much of her life, starting with early childhood.

The previously-published essays cover a variety of topics, including writing, family, friends, dogs and husbands. Patchett weaves poetic prose and humor into her essays to create stories that keep the reader emotionally engaged.

This choice was a different one for Alegria’s “Words to Devour” book club; we usually read novel-length work. Many members of the group weren’t sure what to expect, and the change of pace was reflected in individual ratings ranging from 2 to 5 out of 5.

However, most were at the upper end of the range, resulting in an average of 4.1 out of 5, meaning we’d recommend the book to others.

The book sparked a variety of discussions around some of the essays’ topics.

Since the first essays focus on the art and craft of writing, the group shared their writing experiences ranging from journaling to preparing congressional testimony. We compared writing fiction to non-fiction, and discussed the importance of tapping into creativity throughout life.

The theme of several essays is the importance of living one’s dreams. We talked about how much persistence it takes to reach goals, especially while raising a family and working.

The group also discussed how nice it is to have reached the age where we’ve accomplished so many of our goals and lived some of our dreams.

Patchett, an award-winning author, is an amazing writer. Each essay has a great first-line hook that draws the reader in.

And many of the stories are poignant. The essay about her friendship with the late Lucy Grealy is touching, and left several of us wanting to read Patchett’s book about their time together, “Truth and Beauty.”

As a writer, I appreciated the essays about writing. I’m glad “The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life” was near the beginning; it anchored me in the book.

I thoroughly enjoyed every story.

I, too, wasn’t sure I’d like this selection as much as I’ve liked some of the novels the group has read, but I did. I give it 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

One book club member, an avid fan, said “The Patron Saint of Liars” is her favorite Ann Patchett book. That book is now on my to-be-read list.

(Sarah Hanberry Baker has written 20 published novels in three genres and is a member of two book clubs. She lives in Bernalillo. Her book reviews appear on the third Sunday of the month.)

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