Ann Packer

Three works of fiction about loss–whether of loved ones, objects, or even ideas.

With her novels The Dive from Clausen’s Pier and Songs Without Words Ann Packer has been widely praised for both her compelling narratives and psychologically complex characters. Our reviewer Jane Ciabattari finds Packer’s new collection of stories, Swim Back to Me similarly “astute and richly detailed”. When we asked the author to name her favorite books, she sent the following reply: “Describing the novel he was currently reading, a friend of mine said, in the offhand way we sometimes make sweeping statements, ‘It’s about what everything is about: loss.’ I immediately began to wonder if this were true and also how loosely we would need to define our terms in order to prove it. I was and am drawn to books about loss, but this can be anything from actual loss–the death of a loved one–to the loss of a closely held secret or belief, even the loss of an unhappy idea about ourselves (think of the bewilderment of the pessimist discovering she has been wrong!). Here are three favorites.”

Books by Ann Packer

The Delivery Room

By Sylvia Brownrigg

“Mira is a Serb living in London, a therapist whose quiet work–literally quiet, since she achieves her greatest effects by listening first and speaking later–takes place alongside a growing distress about both the NATO bombing of her country and the signs, increasingly unavoidable, that her husband may not be well. As mysteriously and undeniably powerful as successful psychotherapy, which I’ve never seen better portrayed, this extraordinary novel is a reminder that it’s on the stage known as the human mind that our greatest dramas occur.”


By Ann Cummins

“Set on and around a New Mexico Indian reservation after the closing of the uranium mill that was the area’s biggest employer, this intensely compelling novel tells the story of two families–one white, one native American–and their efforts to make peace with the high price of working in unsafe conditions. The beautifully described landscape is as much a character as the fathers and adult children, the wives and frail husbands who populate this marvelous book, which has the urgency of the latest news and the humanity of our very best literature.”

The True Sources of the Nile

By Sarah Stone

“This is a gorgeous and suspenseful novel about the costs of bearing witness and the lengths to which we will go to deceive each other and ourselves in order to protect that which we hold dearest. Anne is an American woman living in Burundi during the height of the Hutu-Tutsi conflict, a human rights activist whose lover is a member of the ruling Burundian elite. How their affair is affected by the equally real forces of genocide on the one extreme, and personal crisis on the other, makes for spellbinding reading.”