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An Orange Prize-winning author and listed by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World (2012), Ann Patchett is a powerful storyteller. From characters whose humanity is as realistic as it is flawed, to complicated family stories that are refreshing in their candor, Ann Patchett’s canon portrays timeless truths about the world we live in. In her off-page life, Patchett is a co-owner of Parnassus Books, one of Nashville’s favorite independent bookstores. These books for fans of Ann Patchett include some of her most celebrated work, as well as novels from other female writers that evoke their own sense of literary prowess.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
In the wake of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy makes his family a fortune through real estate investments that become an empire. With his newfound wealth, Cyril’s first major purchase is The Dutch House, an opulent home on the outskirts of Philadelphia. No one knew then that this house would be the reason for the family’s undoing. Narrating the plot is Cyril’s son, Danny, who, along with his sister Maeve, was cast out of The Dutch House by their stepmother. Relegated to the life of poverty that Cyril experienced before making his fortune, the Conroy siblings forge an unshakeable bond that only strengthens through life’s challenges.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
This Pulitzer Prize winner is the story of Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher who disdains the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine. For that matter, Olive doesn’t care for how the world as a whole has changed, either. From a former student who has lost the desire to live, to her own adult child struggling with high sensitivity, to her husband who finds his devotion to their marriage to be both positive and negative, the people in Olive’s life also face changes in their personal lives. As the people of Crosby deal with life’s difficulties, Olive comes to understand herself more deeply and honestly, lending a realistic vision of what it means to be human.
The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett
St. Elizabeth’s is a home for unwed mothers in Habit, Kentucky when Rose Clinton shows up at its doorstep. Pregnant, but not unwed, Rose bides her time at St. Elizabeth’s, staying for the long haul while other residents leave almost as soon as they’ve come. Rose plans to give her baby up for adoption, because she doesn’t believe she can be the mother this baby needs. But all that changes when Cecilia is born, and Rose makes a home for both of them with the nuns of St. Elizabeth’s. Despite her best attempts to leave the past behind, Rose cannot avoid how her past materializes itself, just as she can’t change the woman she became when she moved on.
Writers and Lovers by Lily King
Casey Peabody is a 31-year-old woman grieving her mother’s sudden death and the loss of a love affair. A child golf prodigy, Casey now waits tables in Harvard Square and rents a tiny room where she works on the novel she’s been writing for six years. While Casey accepts self-degradation in the aim of following her dream of being a writer, all her friends that are the same age have moved on from creative ambitions. When she falls in love with two very different men at the same time, her life becomes even more complicated. Her attempt to balance her passion and craft with the realities of life threaten to undo Casey and everything she’s built. Written with a blend of comedy and poignancy, Writers and Lovers explores what it means to transition from one life phase to another.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
On a Sunday afternoon in Southern California, two marriages fall apart when Bert Cousins kisses Beverly Keating at a christening party for Beverly’s daughter, Franny. This catalyst not only destroys these marriages, but also joins the families together. The story after this catalyst spans fifty years of the intertwining of the Cousins and Keatings—they even spend summers together in Virginia, where the second generation bonds over its disillusionment with their parents’ choices. When Franny Keating is a 20-year-old woman, she has an affair with a prolific author and tells him about her family’s story. In this one choice, that story no longer belongs to the Cousins and Keatings. It becomes public knowledge when the author writes a bestseller about the two families, forcing them to come to terms with the pain of their complicated history and see the beauty amongst the ashes.
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
A seemingly insignificant bolt of cloth wreaks havoc on a small English village. Before it made its way in an oblivious traveler’s pocket, it was infected with a virus in London that spreads indiscriminately through this bucolic community. In this time of crisis, Anna Frith, a housemaid, becomes an unlikely heroine as a healer for the village. With the spread of disease comes steep distrust amongst neighbors, superstition, and a witch hunt throughout the year 1666. As the virus spreads to every household, and villagers go from friends to enemies, Anna tries to keep her community together while resisting a forbidden love. In the end, what was meant to be a year of tragedy becomes a year of wonders.
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
Mandel’s Sea of Tranquility spans three hundred years, from the 1912 Canadian wilderness to a moon colony set a hundred years in the future. Edwin St. Andrew crosses the Atlantic by steamship as a young man, bound for the forests of Canada after he is cast out of high society for a faux pas. From his place in the wild, he hears a violin echoing in an airship, an experience that never leaves him. Two hundred years later, Olive Llewellyn is far from her home on the second moon colony for a book tour all over Earth. Within her book is a passage about a man who plays violin on an airship terminal. Gaspery-Jacques Roberts is a detective in the Night City who discovers the stories of a young man driven to madness and a writer stuck on Earth as a pandemic rages. Alongside their stories is the evidence that it’s possible to disrupt the timeline of the universe—and the key to finding out what happened in time to bind the lives of Edwin and Olive forever.
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