Ann Patchett

My friend in London enthusiastically, nervously (the way you're nervous when you're about 95% sure your friend will love what you love too), promised to introduce me to Ann Patchett--the
books, not the person--and then, good as her word, sent along three of her books this fall. In November, I read Truth and Beauty and was completely haunted by it: I mean that literally. For days, I was in a funk, upset, and with a gloomy gothic feeling. The intensity of the friendship and then the sad, lonely end of Lucy Grealy--so unexpected to me--really tore at me.

There was a frisson, too, for Patchett writes about her Bunting at Radcliffe and her friendship with Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, whom I knew in passing while I was at Harvard. So, we overlapped. There I was, living in Cambridge and listening to Terry Gross interview Lucy Grealy and wondering whether or not to buy the book and she was there too. And Grealy died on the day my daughter was born.

Now I’m reading The Patron Saint of Liars. Never has my commute gone so fast. I didn’t even notice a stop between 33rd and Christopher St. on the PATH yesterday. But there’s a new frisson, too: clearly Patchett is drawing on her friendship with Grealy for all the descriptions of the enormous Son carrying Cecilia; other things about Cecilia--her neediness, charisma, mercurial nature--seem parallel with Patchett’s Grealy, so Cecilia’s suicide seems-what?--like a prescient vision but also disturbing: it’s like another moment in the novel when Rose, “knowing” from Evangeline’s vision that Angie’s baby would die, wonders if she ought to have intervened. I didn’t expect Patchett to be so mystical.