I took a summer course on the essay during my graduate school work, studying Montagaine, Rousseau, Emerson, and the classic essayists, but it was not until the past ten years that I have come to appreciate contemporary essays. I have reviewed here before essay collections by Anne Lamott, Anna Quindlen, and Pat Conroy.

Last night I finished a lovely collection of essays,

Precious Days by Ann Patchett was a wonderful collection of timely essays.

I have read both Commonwealth and The Dutch House, two of Patchett’s NY Times bestsellers, so I had been exposed to her expertise as a novelist. Imagine my great pleasure to discover she is equally adept as an essayist. This large print edition’s cover, published in 2009 caught my eye at the local library. I took it home, and put it on my bedside shelf. The painting of the dog, with its post-impressionistic connotations, made me curious about the artist, whom was written about in the title essay, ” These Precious Days.” Had it been a short story, I would argue it was a novelette, judging from its length. However, it is non-fiction, reflecting a true experience of the author; so instead, it is a very long essay.

“Precious Days” chronicles the author’s friendship with a publicist/assistant of Tom Hanks named Sookie, who came to live with Patchett and her husband as she took on exhausting cancer treatments at a hospital in their town. The friendship that grew between the two women, actually, the three adults, was nothing short of amazing. And anyone would have liked to become a friend of the creative, courageous, paragon of a positive attitude as was Sookie. I was so relieved that Sookie was alive at the end of the essay (although her death date is given in the Epilogue) that I wanted to shout, “Way to go, girl!”

My second two favorites were “Eudora Welty, an Introduction” written for The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty, published in 1980, when Welty was 71. Interestingly enough, Patchett had met Welty as a young girl at a reading, at which Welty signed one of her books for her precocious reader, Patchett.

I also enjoyed “There Are No Children Here,” which recounts how Patchett appeared on the same platform as a fellow, unnamed author who contended that until one had children, they’d never experienced love. Because I wanted to be a teacher more than I wanted to be a mother, and felt I couldn’t do both and do them well, I chose not to have children, so, of course, I cheered Patchett on when she disagreed and said, ” …I have to tell you, people without children have known love , and we are [real] writers.” I couldn’t agree more.

This particular book of essays was nice for “picking up and putting down,” sporadic reading. I found myself reading an essay or two, then devouring a whole novel, or watching episodes of Netflix series in between essays. The structure of this collection was conducive to this, and it made for a variety of reading sessions for the four weeks I kept it from circulating at the library. It is a fine collection of literary essays by a fine writer, one of my new favorites–Ann Patchett.

Author: Rae Longest

This year (2019) finds me with 50 plus years of teaching "under my belt." I have taught all levels from pre-K "(library lady" or "book lady"--volunteer) to juniors, seniors, and graduate students enrolled in my Advanced Writing class at the university where I have just completed 30 years. My first paying teaching job was junior high, and I spent 13 years with ages 12-13, the "difficult years." I had some of the "funnest" experiences with this age group. When I was no longer the "young, fun teacher," I taught in an elementary school setting before sixth graders went on to junior high, teaching language arts blocs, an assignment that was a "dream-fit" for me. After completing graduate school in my 40s, I went on to community college, then university teaching. Just as teaching is "in my blood," so is a passion for reading, writing, libraries, and everything bookish. This blog will be open to anyone who loves books, promotes literacy and wants to "come out and play."

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