So I was excited to see that she was the guest of honor at one of Book Passage‘s Literary Lunches to promote her newest offering, a collection of essays called This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage.
I bought my ticket months in advance and arrived in the Corte Madera book store at 12:05 for a 12:30 luncheon, but could see that most of the good seats had been snatched up already. But I figured since I was by myself, I might as well see if there was a single open spot near the front.
There was! I sat with some lovely people who had come a much longer distance and had arrived at 11:15 to procure one of the three front tables. Susan and Pat had been in a book club together but still kept in touch after one of them moved. Bob looked ready to take serious notes. He had not one but two expensive-looking fountain pens and a fancy wooden clipboard that were lined up neatly behind his wine glass. Even before the entrée was served, staff kept our wine glasses filled as we chatted merrily about Ann Patchett and other favorite authors.
Although Elaine Petrocelli, book maven extraordinaire, was scheduled to interview the famous author, she wasn’t feeling well. So her good friend took over. Lucky for me, her good friend is Isabelle Allende, whom I’ve seen at Book Passage before. She’s always a great entertainer. Although I’m sure I would have enjoyed a traditional reading, the conversation structure worked well, primarily because it was clear that Ms. Allende had read the book and thus asked great questions.
One of the essays in her book was about her grieving for Rose, her “perfectly ordinary Chihuahua terrier.” She was caught off guard by just how devastated she was when, after sixteen years, Rose died, but she realized that she had spent more time with Rose than with anyone else in her adult life.
Isabelle brought up the fact that Ann bought a bookstore in what could arguably be called the worst time in history to do so, then asked her point-blank: “So, are you broke?” Ann explained that she has always done well with money. As a 12-year-old, she invested her savings in kruggerands and at some point bought silver. Parnassus, Ann’s little Nashville bookshop, is thriving. It’s good to know that there is someone who is savvy about finances and books.
When asked about her previous marriage, Ann admitted plainly, “I hated my first husband.” It was a short marriage, but it had a lasting effect. She referred to a rather Scarlett O’Hara moment she had when she declared, “Never again!”
She fell in love with Karl five years later, and he asked her to marry him several times over the next eleven years. Her friends couldn’t believe she repeatedly turned down a handsome doctor. Then Karl had a scary heart episode that convinced Ann that they ought to marry so that she would have spousal rights where medical decisions were concerned. They married eight years ago, and his heart has been perfectly healthy ever since. She noted that before they married, 80 percent of what they talked about revolved around his asking and her refusing marriage. Now conversation is relatively friction free.
Because I was lucky enough to be seated in the front, I got my book signed shortly after lunch ended and passed by at least a hundred people waiting in line as I exited the store. It was clearly my lucky day.
I can’t wait to read it!