Top positive review
Classic Patchett With a Few Flaws
Reviewed in the United States on May 22, 2020
I am hesitant to start this book. It’s the last Ann Patchett novel that I haven’t read. After this I’ll be a completist in a starved wasteland of hope that she will continue to write. I choose to read this now because I am eager to regain momentum in my reading and Patchett has a way with words that stirs my innards around so my heart feels like it’s in my lungs, every breath beating and aching. Alright, maybe that’s a bit too dramatic. But what’s the right analogy to capture the power that such a beautiful writer can wield? When Patchett is at her best, I feel myself inside each character. Their actions make perfect sense because they match my emotions. Their flaws and missteps are greeted with empathy because they are my own failings. Their history is intertwined with my own. Their love feels comfortable and thrilling and it fills my thoughts to bursting. All this praise should really be directed to Bel Canto which is the most beautiful book I have ever read. But Patchett always finds a way to highlight the nuances of non-traditional love in trying circumstances. I’m anxious to see what Taft holds, I have a feeling Patchett will find a way to open my eyes anew to truth and beauty. I guess that’s a lot of pressure to put on a book. Oh well, here we go.
And we’re done. It was great, classic Patchett. The story traces the intersection of people at a bar in Memphis. There is the manager, John Nickel, who is a competent, hard-working, put upon man. He’s the father of a son who has moved to Miami and a drummer who gave up his art to become a father. He hires Fay, a young girl with daddy issues and a drug-dealing brother, Carl. Fay falls for John and tensions ensue. The mother of John’s child is moving back into town. Her sister sleeps with John. John’s son is anxious to be with his father. Carl turns violent when John interrupts his drug dealing. John is drawn to Fay even though he knows the relationship is fraught with difficulties. All the while the reader is taken through flashbacks to the life and death of Fay and Carl’s father, Taft. It explains some of the emotions and motivations for their actions in Memphis while showing a different life that was distorted by Taft’s death. The novel is intricate but easy to read. The characters are honest and real and the story moves quickly toward an exciting, if somewhat unresolved, climax. Patchett’s writing is less lyrical than some of her works, but there is still poetry in her descriptions and truth in her characters. A worthwhile journey into the complicated emotions in the depths of our hearts.