What I read on my vacation

I’ve always been interested in what makes people tick, and – by extension – what makes relationships tick. So I was intrigued by the title of Ann Patchett’s new book, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.

I knew it was a collection of personal essays, but didn’t realize how much of the subject matter had to do with writing. Wow! Now that I’m working on my own book after spending twenty-plus years writing articles, I found the best-selling novelist’s latest offering to be an especially great read.

Before tackling book-length fiction (and non-fiction), Patchett got her start writing short stories and freelance articles. Her best-known novel is Bel Canto, a story about a group taken hostage in South America, and the dynamics between them and their captors over time.

It’s heartening to me that Patchett made the leap to full-length books, that it wasn’t easy, that at times she lacked confidence in her ability, and that she succeeded so spectacularly, winning some half-dozen writing awards along the way.

In her new book, she shares not just her story, but a generous amount of practical advice and lessons-by-example for writers.

She is equally forthcoming on the subject of love – of family, friends and pets, as well as the subject in the title.

I didn’t work on my book when I was away, but I returned home with new enthusiasm for the project, some new ideas about writing, and validation of thoughts I already had.