Ann Patchett on Her Newest Novel and the Future of Local Bookstores
Ann Patchett is a favorite of booksellers across the country, and not only because they love her work. The bestselling author of six acclaimed novels—The Patron Saint of Liars, State of Wonder and Bel Canto among them—has been a driving force in the revival of the independent bookstore, even opening her own Nashville outpost with publishing veteran Karen Hayes, Parnassus Books, five years ago.
“Local bookstores are vital for both small and large cities,” Patchett says. “It’s a community center, whether you’re shopping, reading, meeting up with friends or playing with one of the five dogs lying around the store. Reading is not dead. Neither are independent bookstores.”
This month brings the release of Patchett’s highly-anticipated seventh novel, Commonwealth, which, she reluctantly admits, is her most personal offering to date. “It’s a real temptation to deny, but yes—this book hits close to home,” she jokes. “Throughout my career, I have been careful to never write autobiographical fiction, but then I wondered what would happen if I just wrote the book I was trying so hard to not write.”
The result: a compelling novel populated by characters connected by a tangled web of marriages, divorces and children. “It’s a story about a modern family—one we don’t see a lot in literature,” Ann said. “Complicated family trees are the new normal.”