I went to see Ann Patchett last night at our local bookstore. I didn't have a ticket, and the event was sold out, but lucky for me, I was number one on the standby list. The nice man from Boswell told me that he had asked Ann Patchett herself if it was OK if he let me in and she said "he'd better."
I'm taking that as a sign that I was supposed to be there.
I've only read two of her books, neither of which was the one up for discussion. In fact, I hadn't even read the book jacket of Commonwealth, her latest novel. Nor, frankly, did I care all that much. I tend to think that I'm a person who's just 'not that into' fiction, since I seem to spend most of my time reading nonfiction and memoir. But after listening to the discussion, I'm excited to dive in.
Somehow, I think I'm supposed to read this book.
I've been fascinated of late by the idea of story. How authors shape ideas into story, what makes a good story, how to tell a good story, and most recently, why and whether to tell a story. So listening to other authors talk about their craft, particularly after reading their memoirs, after I feel like I know them a little more intimately, is always interesting to me. She did not disappoint.
There's a discussion happening among my tribe of writing friends right now about whether it's OK to tell our children's stories. One of my friends shared this article and we've been discussing it ever since. If telling my own story involves revealing my sons' secrets, is it mine to tell? Not that they have many secrets yet, but one day, no doubt, they will. And I'll have to decide whether to be the keeper. Thankfully I'm not writing about awkward moments just yet, and I'm looking at my writing as more of a gift to them, so that one day, when I am old and grey and not recognizable as the woman I am today, they'll know me a little more intimately. If they want to, of course.
And lo and behold, when I did read the inside flap of Ann Patchett's book, here is what I found:
When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.
There is more of course, but indeed, this seems to be the question I've been grappling with of late. I'm pretty sure the universe is telling me to read this book. I shall report back (though don't hold your breath, it might take a little while).