This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage

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by Ann Patchett

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Blending literature and memoir, Ann Patchett, author of State of Wonder and Bel Canto examines her deepest commitments: to writing, family, friends, dogs, books, and her husband in This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. Together these essays, previously published in The Atlantic, Harper's,


Blending literature and memoir, Ann Patchett, author of State of Wonder and Bel Canto examines her deepest commitments: to writing, family, friends, dogs, books, and her husband in This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. Together these essays, previously published in The Atlantic, Harper's, Vogue, and the Washington Post, form a resonant portrait of a life lived with loyalty and with love.

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage takes us into the very real world of Ann Patchett's life. Stretching from her childhood to the present day, from a disastrous early marriage to a later happy one, it covers a multitude of topics, including relationships with family and friends, and charts the hard work and joy of writing, and the unexpected thrill of opening a bookstore.

As she shares stories of the people, places, ideals, and art to which she has remained indelibly committed, Ann Patchett brings into focus the large experiences and small moments that have shaped her as a daughter, wife, and writer.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Audio
Patchett’s collection of essays covers a variety of subjects including love, divorce, pets, writing, death, and a whole lot more. Fans and newcomers will find this a delightful mix of reflection, observation, amusement, and sincerity. In this audio edition, Patchett proves entirely capable as narrator and maintains listener attention for the duration. Her familiarity with each piece allows for great emphasis and timing, and provides for a smooth reading and intimate performance. Her voice also perfectly captures each essay’s tone, and she knows exactly how to deliver punch lines—which makes listening all the more enjoyable than reading. A Harper hardcover. (Nov.)
Library Journal - Audio
★ 02/15/2014
This work collects essays written by Patchett (State of Wonder) for various publications over the course of her career. The collection covers a broader range of topics than the title might indicate, including writing, dogs, reading, caring for a beloved grandmother, and, of course, marriage, both failed and successful. What is common to so many of the essays is a concern with the things we devote ourselves to in life, whether it be a career, another person, or a beloved pet. Patchett writes with humor that is both wry and down to earth but never stands in the way of the emotion inherent in the subject matter. Listeners are likely to especially enjoy "The Wall," which explores Patchett's relationship with her father, who spent his career on the Los Angeles police force, through her attempt to join the L.A. Police Academy. "The Mercies," which tells the story of Patchett's friendship with her elementary school teacher Sister Nena is another highlight. The author reads the audiobook, delivering her stories in a conversational tone that complements and enlivens the writing. VERDICT This collection of highly polished essays is an easy listen that also provides plenty of rich food for thought and will appeal to a broad audience. ["Patchett provides insight and entertainment for all kinds of readers, and this title will be an asset to any library," read the review of the Harper hc, LJ 10/15/13.]—Heather Malcolm, Bow, WA
The New York Times - Janet Maslin
Ms. Patchett's style is not overly confessional, but it is beguiling in ways that make her sound like someone you'd want to know. Her new book, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, reinforces the impression of an uncommonly kind person who is not above self-interest but loves books, her grandmother, the toughest nun who taught her in grade school, her husband and her darling dog…This book is about so much more than love, marriage or divorce…
The New York Times Book Review - Wendy Lesser
I hope it will not sound disrespectful if I say that I read this book for fun. Yes, I was assigned to review it, and, yes, I assembled all my usual reviewer's equipment (note cards, pen, critical faculties) before sitting down to read. But when I got to the end of the book, I realized I hadn't taken a single note. I had been so engaged by Ann Patchett's multifaceted story, so lured in by her confiding voice, that I forgot I was on the job.
Publishers Weekly
A collection of 22 essays (including a couple of commencement addresses) previously published by accomplished novelist and memoirist Patchett (State of Wonder; What Now?; etc.) offer generous glimpses of her rural, divorced Catholic Tennessee background and winding but determined route to becoming a writer (“The Getaway Car”). Writing nonfiction, first for Seventeen and later a host of magazines as her network of editors expanded, was her bread and butter in the early days, and she has an authoritative, straightforward voice in exploring some of the milestones of her life, such as her deep love for her dog, Rose (not to be confused with the desire for a baby), learning from scratch how to love opera in order to write her bestseller Bel Canto, preparing with her ex-cop father’s guidance for the grueling L.A. Police Academy exams (“The Wall”), her startling resolve to start up a Nashville bookstore when no other bookstore was left in her hometown, and her painful but merciful segue from divorce to remarriage. The public addresses she made after the publication of Truth & Beauty, a memoir about her friendship with the deeply tortured writer Lucy Grealy, form the most telling and moving selections, especially her compelling speech (“The Right to Read”) given to the Clemson University student body in defense of academic and artistic freedom. Early on, her writing teacher Russell Banks had warned Patchett of being too “polished” and “just getting by,” urging her to take risks, and certainly many of these selections reveal a candid, evolved self-reflection. (Nov.)
The New Yorker
“[A] sparkling collection.”
Miami Herald
“Happy marriage, compelling writing and all worthy endeavor requires hard work. That’s Patchett’s strength. And she does a fine job.”
Dallas Morning News
“Patchett … is one of our best contemporary novelists. This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage reminds us that she is an exceptional writer of nonfiction, too. Her prose is a pleasure to read, regardless of genre.”
Christian Science Monitor
“Novelist Ann Patchett’s excellent essay collection ranges from dogs to writing to white-knuckled air travel.”
Aspen Daily News
“While being an artistic crafter of words, Patchett also has a storyteller’s ability to sketch a moment so vividly you can’t fail to see how her own writing life was developed.”
the Oprah Magazine O
“In this heartfelt collection of autobiographical essays, the novelist opens up about love, friendship, and family, exhibiting the compassionate voice that is a hallmark of her fiction.”
“It is a feat that Ann Patchett remains so lovable as a narrator, and so engaging as a storyteller, when writing about her excellent career, personal life, dog, and husband.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Patchett’s is a no-nonsense voice: clear, sane, companionable… [T]he funny, frank and nervy ‘The Getaway Car’ (possibly worth the book’s price) plunges readers, roller-coaster style, into the story of Patchett’s writing life—essentially, this collection’s real subject.”
NPR's Fresh Air
“[I]n this terrific, wide-ranging collection, Patchett demonstrates how a pro does it.”
“All of the essays, which have been collected from her magazine work over two decades, are excellent. Patchett writes enviable prose—fluid, simple, direct, clear, and fearless…”
Huffington Post
“Ann Patchett most definitely has something to say, in her fully realized and beautiful voice.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[A]ll of the periodical pieces collected are finely polished, worthy of their packaging between two hard covers.”
Columbus Dispatch
“Writing of loss and of the complications of love, Patchett lets down her guard … and opens both her sense of humor and her heart.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Wit-filled and elegantly executed”
USA Today
“Reading Patchett is like spending time with a deeply perceptive longtime pal, or a new friend that one instantly connects with.”
New York Times Book Review
“I had been so engaged by Ann Patchett’s multifaceted story, so lured in by her confiding voice, that I forgot I was on the job. […] As the best personal essays often do, Patchett’s is a two-way mirror, reflecting both the author and her readers.”
Shelf Awareness
“Patchett’s mastery of nonfiction [is] every bit the equal of her skill as a novelist.”
Real Simple
“All the essays were a joy to read...No matter your interest, you’ll find words in this book that speak to you.”
O: the Oprah Magazine
“In this heartfelt collection of autobiographical essays, the novelist opens up about love, friendship, and family, exhibiting the compassionate voice that is a hallmark of her fiction.”
New York Times
“The best advertisement for Ann Patchett’s new collection of nonfiction is anything else Ms. Patchett has written...Ms. Patchett’s style is not overly confessional, but it is beguiling in ways that make her sound like someone you’d want to know.”
Library Journal
This compilation of 22 essays by novelist Patchett (winner of the Orange Prize and PEN/Faulkner Award; Taft; State of Wonder), many of which previously appeared in magazines or newspapers, together comprise an eclectic group covering a wide range of events on the topic of commitment, from training to get into the Los Angeles Police Department academy to Patchett's career as an author. In the title piece, she recounts the 11 premarriage years she spent with now husband Karl and the lessons they taught her about marriage. In sharing her struggles as a writer and creating the life she wanted for herself, Patchett offers words that gently advise without imposing. Her experiences, large and small, create a connection with the reader in prose that is thoughtful, warm, and encouraging. Each of the essays is its own delight and resonates with warmth and humor from her family and friends, making a short investment of time wonderfully rewarding. If read straight through, the book presents a lovely and lyrical look at a life well lived. VERDICT Patchett provides insight and entertainment for all kinds of readers, and this title will be an asset to any library.—Catherine Gilmore, MLS, Portland, OR
Kirkus Reviews
A well-organized collection of a beloved, award-winning writer's nonfiction essays about her personal and literary lives. Most readers know Patchett (State of Wonder, 2011, etc.) for her richly imaginative fiction. But before she found success as a novelist, she supported herself by writing nonfiction for a diverse variety of magazines, including Seventeen, Mercedes Benz Magazine and Bridal Guide. In this book, Patchett gathers 22 essays published between 1997 and 2012. What she ultimately produces is a text that is part meditation on the writing life and part literary memoir. From an early age, the Los Angeles native knew she wanted to be a writer, but she would be an adult before she realized that, in addition to making art, storytellers "also [had] to make a living." After stints as a cook, waitress and teacher, she discovered that writing nonfiction could pay her bills. It would only be much later that she understood how writing nonfiction had transformed her into "a workhorse," abolished her ego and impacted the future readers of her novels in ways she never expected. Patchett also reflects on her literary successes, as well as on the controversy surrounding Truth & Beauty (2004), which explores the emotionally intense relationship she had with fellow Iowa Writers' Workshop graduate Lucy Grealy. The personal essays reflect a wide range of experiences. In one, she reflects on the rocky childhood that led her away from LA and on to Nashville. In another, she reflects on her failed first marriage and second successful one. Patchett also shares stories of how she learned to appreciate opera, qualified for the LA police academy and unexpectedly became part owner of an independent bookstore. Readable and candid, Patchett's collection is a joyful celebration of life, love and the written word. Wise, humane and always insightful.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.32(w) x 5.84(h) x 1.54(d)

Meet the Author

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 & Beauty. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is co-owner of Parnassus Books.

Brief Biography

Nashville, Tennessee
Date of Birth:
December 2, 1963
Place of Birth:
Los Angeles, California
B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1985; M.F.A., University of Iowa, 1987

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This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Donna_Coleman More than 1 year ago
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage is a sheer delight. It really gets in deep to the notion of writing nonfiction – what that type of art really is and how utterly unique it is. The book balances between essays about life and philosophy about life. It is really an incredible balancing act. Five stars.
BerylSBissell More than 1 year ago
If you love Ann Patchett’s novels, prepare to fall in love with the author herself when you read This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. I was so enchanted while reading this book that I brought it along to read aloud to my husband as we drove the 2,000 miles from Northern Lake Superior to our winter home in Florida. He laughed so long and hard that I wondered if I should do the driving to maintain control of the wheel. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage is so much more than an enchanting collection of personal essays. It is a surprisingly intimate view of Patchett: the young girl growing up in a miss-matched family, the young writer struggling towards a career, the star-crossed lover, the cherished friend. In her essay “The Get-Away-Car,” Patchett shares her best and wisest advice on how to become a writer. Bringing her self-effacing humor and profound insight to every page, Patchett writes about her dog, her grandmother, the nun she feared as a child and learned to love as an adult, the hilarious saga of a road-trip in a Winnebago through Montana. Written and published over a period of years and compiled in this book, these essays blend the past with the present in an almost seamless story-telling event.
quaintinns More than 1 year ago
This was my first book by Ann Patchett-a very insightful look into the ups and downs of Patchett’s life, her writings, marriage, family, dog, and the people who came in and out of her life. A collection of short essays which were published in the NY Times, WSJ, Washington Post and others. (how a writer supports herself while trying to earn income and have time for writing and the process). She tells her story about her trials, experiences, successes, failures and her search for love and happiness in personal and business. All of the essays are tied together with a background of her life and history of the articles she wrote. This book inspires all of us whether writing short stories, blogging or novels. Makes readers appreciate all our favorite author’s efforts and what it takes ---Thanks for sharing your life lessons! I look forward to reading more from this author.
The_Book_Wheel_Blog More than 1 year ago
Great book for Patchett Fans  Note: I received This is the Story of a Happy Marriage from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.  I've been an Ann Patchett fan for years. I loved State of Wonder and adored The Patron Saint of Liars, so when I was given the opportunity to read about Ann Patchett by Ann Patchett, I jumped. And boy, am I glad I did! Confession: I had no idea she started out writing magazine articles. I consider myself to be pretty up-to-snuff when it comes to the writing histories of authors I love, but for some reason I never did much Patchett research. I think this is probably a good thing because it lent an air of mystery to her work. My favorite essay from the book was The Getaway Car. In it, she discusses how she became a writer and gives advice (like don't get an MFA because it's a waste of money) and her self-deprecating process of writing a book. In it, she details the circumstances around writing The Patron Saint of Liars, which is my favorite book by her, and I loved reading the backstory. I think I might actually go back and reread it now that I have some insight into her writing processes. Voracious readers will love this book. As a writer who is writing about writing (follow all that?), Patchett's love for all things literary is palpable. I, for one, relished in her descriptions of reading, wanting to be a writer as a child, putting pen to paper, and actually put down the book to write a short, personal essay just because she inspired me. But enough talking about the book. Run to the library and get your copy NOW!   Allison @ The Book Wheel
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book for anyone who loves excitement, adventure, and romance. The character development is beautifully done through expert use of adjectives and humor. Kier and Jon Marc are people you would love to have in your circle of friends. You are transported to a different world similar enough to earth to be believable but different enough to challenge you to imagine how it might be to live there. I highly recommend it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very enjoyable collection of essays, mostly about writing and the life of a writer. The title essay was probably the best one, but it's really the only one about her marriage. The rest could be considered a metaphorical marriage, in the sense that writing is a life-long passion for her and her longest-term commitment, but it was not what I expected from reading the jacket and some of the other reviews. Still, she's a good writer and I'm very glad I found this. I've read two of her novels but nothing of her nonfiction writing before. I found her thoughts on what education and true creative thinking are most inspirational.
duchenf More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed getting to know Ann Patchett through her essays. I liked the variety and she is an excellent writer.
TRFeller More than 1 year ago
I live in Nashville, where Patchett also known for opening a bookstore (Parnassus Books) at a time when conventional wisdom said that bookstores are obsolete. This is a collection of her essays that were originally written for magazines and newspapers such as Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, The New York Times, Vogue, The Wall Street, The Washington Post, and other publications. The essay that provides the title, however, was originally published as an original work for the web site, the Internet’s leading retailer for audio books. Many of the essays are autobiographical (the happy marriage is her second), and I learned a lot about her that I had not known from the general media, even in Nashville.
frydaddy More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book, nice to read short chapter stories for a change. Love patchett so my be a little prejudiced.
MahMah More than 1 year ago
... because altho it DOES contain a goodly story of a happy marriage, it encompasses soooo much more than that! Patchett opens up her entire life in short narratives that left me riding the entire spectrum of human emotion! If one has any ambitions about becoming a writer I would recommend that you rush out to buy this book and read and REREAD it before you even begin to THINK about putting your thoughts to paper (or computer)... Patchett not only writes 'in spades' -- she tells you HOW to do it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Whether you are a fan of Ann Patchett or not, you will enjoy this series of memory stories. I especially liked the title story and the one about Rose, the dog. Written in an acessible, conversational style.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent writing, interesting topics........ just not my kind of thing
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Do something about these constant glitches, BN! Your customer service sucks!