If I believed in the Evil Eye, I would say that titling my new book This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage was a huge mistake. It invites personal disaster. It would be like titling your book My Children Love Me and Get Good Grades and Have Zero Interest in Meth. It's a bad idea. But I don't believe in the Evil Eye (although I will admit that typing that sentence makes me slightly uncomfortable), so I can call my book anything I want. The idea is that these are stories about commitment. I write about friendship and family and my dog and my bookstore and writing. At a reading I gave years after my friend Lucy Grealy died, someone in the audience stood up and asked me why I'd stuck by Lucy through so many turbulent times. I told them my feelings about friendship were best summed up by the marriage vows, and that I thought that we should love and honor and cherish each other through sickness and in health and all of that for as long as we lived. Those vows actually sum up my feelings about a lot of things I love. Maybe it was my 12 years of Catholic school. I'm a person who likes a vow.
I'm also a person who lives to recommend books. It is my one point of zealotry. It's not quite enough for me to love a book by myself; I want to make sure other people love it too. In an attempt to not be overwhelming, I've limited myself to five books being published this fall, though if you want to keep up with the larger scope of my recommendations, I have a book blog on our store website, Parnassusbooks.net.
I've been reading Edwidge Danticat from the beginning. My longstanding admiration of her work was cemented into unwavering love with the publication of her memoir, Brother, I'm Dying. This book — which is, among many other things, the story of her uncle and father and how she was a daughter to both of them — is extraordinary. One of the pleasures of great new books from favorite authors is how they circle me back around to previous books of theirs I've loved. Edwidge's new novel, Claire of the Sea Light, tells the story of the hard lives of people in a poor Haitian village, but her writing is so luminous, so exact, that I came away from it with the weight of all the characters and at the same time a tremendous sense of lightness that is born of the beauty and love that encircled their lives. The story goes back and forth through different members of the community, weaving the past and the present seamlessly, tying their lives together so that the whole winds up being much more than the sum of its beautiful parts.
Edwidge came to Parnassus for an event and we were so impressed by her. We fawned all over her and in return she was gracious and kind, paying attention to all the staff and all the people who had come to hear her read. If I believed in reincarnation (which I put in the same category as the Evil Eye), I would believe that Edwidge had been a Zen master in a former life.
More from Ann Patchett on PowellsBooks.Blog:
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Ann Patchett is the author of six novels, including Bel Canto (winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize), and the nonfiction bestsellers What Now? and Truth and Beauty. Her latest book is This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is co-owner of Parnassus Books.
Books mentioned in this post
Ann Patchett is the author of This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage