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This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

Updated on November 1, 2014

I've been a fan of Ann Patchett's writing for years. You may have read or heard of some of her novels, especially Bel Canto, which won the Orange Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award in 2002. Frankly I found the bulk of Bel Canto great but the ending horrible. But her newest book is nonfiction.

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage is a collection of essays she wrote through the years for publication in magazines and newspapers. The general theme is commitment.

As a writer myself, I love reading what good writers have to say about writing. They often discuss their writing habits and what it takes to get an idea to a finished novel. So I especially enjoyed "The Getaway Car," which was published in Byliner in 2011.

I'd read some of the information she wrote in this essay in her book Truth and Beauty about her friendship with the late Lucy Grealy, also a writer. I remember in that book Patchett wrote about meeting Elizabeth McCracken, who has written The Giant's House, Niagara Falls All Over Again, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, and Here's Your Hat, What's Your Hurry. And Patchett said she worked at writing her first novel like it was a factory job. Well, in "The Getaway Car," McCracken comes up again as Patchett's first and only reader. When she writes a novel, she writes it for herself and for Elizabeth.

The title story of this book discusses not only Patchett's current marriage to Dr. Karl VanDevender but also of her short, unhappy marriage in her early twenties. She also brings along for the ride boyfriends and relationships that fizzled along the way.

There is quite a bit of overlap in the 22 essays because life does that: It isn't a streamlined, straight and narrow path. Life throws us here and there and people come and go and come again, and some stay. If you enjoy good writing and great storytelling, I bet you'll enjoy This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage.

Ann Patchett's books follow:

  • The Patron Saint of Liars, 1992 (also made into a movie starring Dana Delany, Ellen Burstyn, and Maggie Gyllenhaal)
  • Taft, 1994
  • The Magician's Assistant, 1997
  • Bel Canto, 2001
  • Truth and Beauty: A Friendship, 2004
  • Run, 2007
  • What now?, 2008
  • State of Wonder, 2011
  • This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, 2013

Source: Ann Patchett

The Patron Saint of Liars
The Patron Saint of Liars

Patchett's first novel deals with a married woman who escapes to a home for unwed mothers when she learns she's pregnant.


I've read all of Ann Patchett's books except What now?. I loved The Magician's Assistant and Truth and Beauty and State of Wonder. But I loved the others too.

Truth & Beauty: A Friendship
Truth & Beauty: A Friendship

This book is about friendship, love, and writing.

I Can't Complain: (All Too) Personal Essays
I Can't Complain: (All Too) Personal Essays

Elinor Lipman's collection of essays rivals Ann Patchett's. Lipman's writing is wise and funny and varied. I loved this book!


If You've Had the Pleasure of Reading Ann Patchett's Books, Vote for Your Favorite

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    • gottaloveit2 profile image


      5 years ago

      Sounds like an interesting book. Nice review.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I have yet to read a book by Patchett but your review has me believing this book of essays on a happy marriage would be an interesting read.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 

      5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Nice review. Must add to my list for 2014

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      5 years ago from Colorado

      I have read several of Ann Patchett's books and do appreciate her writing. Thank you for introducing me to another book I am sure to enjoy.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 

      5 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      I have State of Wonder in my wish list, but haven't ready anything by her. Sounds very good though! Nice lens--thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      "This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage" sounds like an interesting book. I've never read any of Ann Patchett's work. Thanks for the review.

    • TerriCarr profile image


      5 years ago

      I haven't read any of Ann Patchett but it sounds like she is worth checking out. I like the essay format. Would like to do some myself.

    • RoadMonkey profile image


      5 years ago

      An author I have never encountered previously. Must try some of her books. Thanks, it's always good to find new authors to read.

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 

      5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Since this is non-fiction, it does sound like something I would enjoy; a story of commitment from various perspectives (sounds intriguing)

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 

      5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      I recently downloaded an excerpt from The Getaway Car. Looking forward to reading it and absorbing the thoughts of a successful writer.


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