It's intriguing to know where great authors originally blossomed. A Californian who has lived in Nashville, Tennessee since she was a child, Ann Patchett writes imaginative books highlighted by unconventional and sympathetic characters. Ms. Patchett worked at Seventeen Magazine before she burst on the literary scene—with her fourth novel.
That novel was Bel Canto, whose unexpected plot has made it an individual and book group favorite. At a party in an unnamed South American country, a Japanese industrialist is about to be honored by an opera singer when terrorists break in and take over. Soon the opposite sides bond over music, and politics take a back seat to romance and conversation. A wonderfully original story, this is fiction worth reading again.
Entranced with Bel Canto, readers went back to Patchett’s earlier works. Her The Magician’s Assistant is another quirky story, this time about a magician’s wife who, on discovering that her late husband lied about his family, takes a trip to the Nebraska hinterlands to find out what other mysteries he was hiding. A married woman enters a home for unwed mothers and decides to stay and raise her child there in The Patron Saint of Liars.
The author also writes non-fiction. Truth and Beauty, is a memoir about her long and difficult friendship with writer Lucy Grealy. Grealy’s own Autobiography of a Face is about a struggle with cancer that left her disfigured and rejected. Patchett’s story of their relationship is not a rose-colored look, but rather a funny and painful reflection on the meaning of friendship.
Finally, remembering that writers love readers, Ms. Patchett opened an independent bookstore in her hometown and continually promotes books and reading.