This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage

Image of This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage: A Collection
Release Date: 
October 29, 2013
Harper Collins
Reviewed by: 

After reading This Is a Story of a Happy Marriage, it is clear that author Ann Patchett not only talks the talk but walks the walk of a successful writer. This book is a series of nonfiction essays that allow the reader to enter Ms. Patchett’s inner world and eavesdrop on her thoughts and emotions as she adeptly paints a portrait of her personal journey and views on creativity that many readers might identify with—particularly artists and writers.

As part of the wisdom she imparts to writers Ms. Patchett states, “We all have ideas, sometimes good ones, not to mention the gift of emotional turmoil that every childhood provides. In short, the story is in us and all we have to do is sit there and write it down.”

Ms. Patchett shares with the reader an in-depth exploration of the craft of writing and is not shy about expressing her opinions on how to achieve mastery of the written word. For example, she clearly states, “If you want to write, practice writing. Practice it for hours a day, not to come up with a story you can publish, but because you long to learn how to write well, because there is something that you alone can say.”

She also questions the definition of success that is accepted by our society at large. Using a related example she explains that “playing the cello, we’re more likely to realize that the pleasure is the practice, the ability to create this beautiful sound; not to do it as well as Yo-Yo Ma, but still, to touch the hem of the gown that is art itself.”

Ms. Patchett believes it is critical to compose a story that energizes both the reader and the writer. In short, she explained “that the plot had to be complicated enough and interesting enough to keep me sitting in a straight back kitchen chair seven days a week.” Even more significantly, if a plot bores the writer, it is surely going to bore the reader.

Plot is critical in Ms. Patchett’s educated opinion. Her recommendations of great writers who create both a great plot mixed with beautiful style include her favorite—Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye.

Writing beyond what seems beyond one’s capabilities is something she stresses to help a writer grow and evolve over time. She does not, however, believe in writer’s block viewing this term as a fabrication. This idea may be controversial but not unheard of in some writer’s circles. Further, she views the writer’s block concept to be more in line with procrastination due to frustration with the writing process as whole. And what writer has not been frustrated during the creative process?

Coupled with her views on writing are her experiences in the relationship arena. Her struggles with finding the right person are memorable but the right relationship for her eventually happened in a powerful way. Her dedication to core principles such as kindness and support for a partner’s path is her simple truth for success. As she aptly puts it, “The love between humans is the thing that nails us to this earth.”

This Is a Story of a Happy Marriage is well organized and in a succinct fashion couples premises with pertinent examples that hold a reader’s interest. It is a book that will enhance a writer’s thought process, providing alternative ways to approach plot, structure, character development—and writer’s block.