Reading List

This is Not Just About Marriage

I chose to read this book because of what I know and love about other work by Ann Patchett, and for what I thought I knew about its contents, given its title. But—this is not a memoir of a marriage, per se, details (other than the briefest) of Ann and Karl and the arc of their lives together (other than a few inflection points). This is, instead, a collection of essays Ann Patchett has written over the years for various publications on a range of topics which become, as grouped together and ordered as they are, a rumination on what any long-term commitment and passion sustained by hard work actually are: seeking and sometimes finding, persisting and hoping, navigating our way through the tangle of time and space as we try to work with ourselves or get out of our own ways. There are stories about divorce in this book; RVs and opera; Alzheimer’s and veterinarians, the conditions vexing her grandmother and her dog; the Los Angeles Police Academy (and, fun fact, Ann Patchett’s practiced ability to clear a six-foot wall at a run); fierce friendship and a college freshman convocation speech on the right to read/think; finally actual marriage, or the beginning of one; and then aging and dying nuns to wrap it up. This is the story of determination and connection, of art and of love—and I came away further inspired in my own efforts toward those ends.