Those who know me know I’m a huge Ann Patchett fan, so yes, it’s odd that I didn’t run out and get this book as soon as it was available. Instead, I waited for the right opportunity to read it - alone, uninterrupted, and all at once. It was the right decision.
I expected this book of essays to feel like a warm hug, and it was. Reading this made me want to move down the street from Patchett; to drop in for a cup of tea, to walk our dogs together, to call her my friend. Her words are a source of comfort and joy, finding inspiration in friendships, hobbies, and shared personalities.
These Precious Days features an introduction, epilogue, and 22 essays spanning Patchett’s life. They range in topics, but most are about her immediate realm; her childhood, her experience having three different fathers, the beginnings of her life with her current partner, his obsession with airplanes, her attempts to learn knitting, the way she met Tom Hanks for the first (but not the last!) time, her friends, her decision to not have children, her journey of reading and loving the children’s author Kate DiCamillo, her love of dogs, even the experience of choosing covers for her books.
The title essay is also the most affecting. “These Precious Days” is the story of a brand new friendship that turns into a deep understanding between two women, and a short re-telling of the way their lives were thrown together during the pandemic. Patchett doesn’t dwell on how terrible the pandemic is because compared to what else is happening in their lives at that same point, Covid doesn’t seem all that bad. This new friend of hers is the artist behind the dog painting on the book’s cover.
It’s inevitable that I’m going to love a cozy book like this, especially one that is regularly espousing the value of books. Patchett is also a bookstore owner – she co-owns Parnassus Books in Nashville, and being a famous author who has written many books, literature is a constant companion of hers. Many of her stories incorporate scenes from her store and elements of what it’s like to be a bookstore owner and the strange workings of the publishing industry, but this isn’t a book about books. Instead, we are dropped into different parts of Patchett’s life, not in sequential order either.
Patchett has a quick sense of humour, she doesn’t set out to make one laugh per se, but her turns of phrase are witty, and I found myself smiling a great deal. She describes one woman as “all business” after having a quick labour that she witnesses.
Her stories are clearly rooted in reality and never stray from it, but Patchett leads an engaging enough life that embellishment isn’t needed or wanted – the talent of her writing clearly shines through in even the most mundane of situations.
I’m glad I waited to read it. My crush on Patchett is cemented.