Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage" Details Ann Patchett's Success (and Failure) in Love

Valentine's Day posts should be about love, and today's post is. Well, it is and it isn't. Back in December, Audible.com offered a free download to its listeners: an essay on marriage by acclaimed author Ann Patchett. At the urging of friends and family, Patchett wrote down the story of her marriage -- a happy one, by all accounts.

She begins, however, with several unhappy marriages: her grandparents', her parents', and finally, her own first marriage.
"Tell the story of your marriage," my young friend Niki says to me. "Write down how it is you have a happy marriage." But the story of my marriage, which is the great joy and astonishment of my life, is too much like a fairy tale, the German kind, unsweetened by Disney. (Patchett, "This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage")
As a result of her family history, Patchett had no background in making marriage work. She saw her mother choose poorly time and again, and make decisions to follow men cross-country from California to Patchett's hometown of Nashville.

Although she describes her stepfather as a father-figure to her to this day, Patchett holds nothing back when relating the drawbacks of her mother's marriage to him. She and her sister had to exist within the walls of this second marriage, she says, while his kids only visited on summer breaks and holidays. She isn't sure still which group of kids had it better. They had no permanent father in their lives back in California, but she and her sister had to live in that marriage.

After a disastrous first marriage to a man she never really loved, Patchett swore off marriage. It was not for her, she decided. And yet, here she is -- in present day, married to a man with whom she is thrilled to spend her life. How did she manage to get from point A to point B? In this extraordinary essay, Patchett reveals what love means to her, and why after many years she decided to give marriage a go again -- and why it's the best decision she's ever made.

"This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage" is an essay not to be missed, especially on this, the (albeit consumer-market-driven) holiday of love. In fact, it is the perfect thing to listen to on a day like today, when society tells us love is roses and expensive chocolate. The love Patchett describes has nothing to do with those things, and everything to do with choosing to become a better person through your partner.

To get this essay to listen to today -- or any day -- (for free!) click here.


  1. This audio book sounds wonderful! I read The Getaway Car, Patchett's brief memoir of writing and life, and she alluded to her first marriage in it. Although its focus was writing, it was so illuminating and wonderful. I'm eager to listen to this one. Thanks!

    1. Now I'm going to have to get The Getaway Car! I truly love her nonfiction writing. One of my favorite memoirs is Patchett's book about her friendship with writer Lucy Grealy (who died in 2002), Truth & Beauty. You need to check it out if you haven't already read it.

  2. I loved this essay, and I have just become an Ann Patchett fan.
    Does anyone know how I can get the text version?
    Thank you!
    A. Licona



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