If you read Ann Patchett’s 2011 essay collection This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, you might remember the author writing that children have “a real failure of imagination when it comes to thinking of the adults in their lives as having done anything of interest, anything at all, in the time known as before.” I get this. From both perspectives.
I can still remember the revelation in my late teens that my own parents weren’t just helpful and boring creatures placed on this earth in service of me. And now, with two children myself, I see their eyes glaze over when I start sentences with “when I was in my early twenties”, and I try not to be offended when they ask me for snacks halfway through a tale about my ‘intrepid’ gap year.
It seems Patchett wasn’t finished exploring the idea herself. As well as the lives parents have led before their children were born, the author’s latest novel is about love in its many forms—youthful, married, maternal, familial, old and new, lost and reimagined—and the difference between choice and destiny.
Set on a cherry orchard, this warm and wistful meditation on love, mothers and daughters, and the ephemerality of youth might just be Patchett's sweetest novel yet.
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