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‘Those Precious Days’ book review: Relatable and inspiring

‘Those Precious Days’ book review: Relatable and inspiring

Ann Patchett is one of my all-time favorite authors. I have read and loved ‘Run’, ‘Commonwealth’, and ‘Bel Canto’. I have a copy of ‘The Dutch House’ on my shelf reserved for that time when I hit a reading slump. I know Patchett will get me out of it. I recently came across one of her essay collections while browsing at the bookstore. I had no intention of buying a book. I had made a pact with my husband that I wouldn’t buy any books in January. I was waiting for a friend and had stepped into the bookstore to kill some time.

But there were only two copies of ‘These Precious Days’ and I had never seen the book at any other bookstore. I just couldn’t walk away. I went back to the bookstore a few days ago to buy a copy for my friend. The blurb at the back of the book says, ‘Read it, cherish it, buy a copy for your best friend, then read it once more.’ I want to give this book to anyone who is feeling upset or unsettled in life. It’s filled with nuggets of hard-earned wisdom. Patchett’s writing takes your mind off things. And you can relate to so many things that it makes you feel a little less lonely.

The essays are personal. In one Patchett talks about her relationship with her three fathers, and how each of them taught her different things. “Without ever meaning to, my father taught me at a very early age to give up on the idea of approval,” writes Patchett while speaking about her father’s scorn for her writing. When her mother remarried for the third time, Patchett was just 27. Something about her mother’s easy approach to marriage, of not giving up on it despite hers not working out, made Patchett more accepting of life’s ups and downs.

In another essay, she talks about the hardships in a writer’s life, the uncertainty that comes with being a writer, and the many pressures and pitfalls of publishing. Another deals with the often harrowing and intrusive questions that are raised about her decision not to have children. “To have a child required the willful forgetting of what childhood was actually like; it required you to turn away from the very real chance that you do to the person you loved most in the world the exact same thing that was done to you. No. No, thank you.”

In Those Precious Days, the longest essay of the collection and the one the anthology is named after, she writes about her friend Sooki’s battle with cancer. Patchett and Sooki strike up a rare friendship after the two cross paths when Patchett is called upon to interview Tom Hanks for his book, ‘Uncommon Type’. Sooki is his assistant. There are also lighthearted essays that are filled with warmth and humor. She writes about how owning a bookstore has changed her life. She writes about her mother, her husband, and her dog. That everyone and everything is just fodder for a writer is made evident by her eagerness to write about them all.

 Some essays are short and some are long. But they all feel complete by themselves. Many of them have been previously published in various publications, though the book versions have been slightly tweaked. Patchett’s insight and compassion infuse life into the stories. Patchett is first and foremost a storyteller but she shines as an essayist too. “Essays never filled my days,” she says in the first one in the collection, “But they reminded me that I was still a writer when I wasn’t writing a novel.”  

Those Precious Days

Ann Patchett

Published: 2021

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Pages: 322, Paperback