After her most recent publication, an essay based on her 2006 Sarah Lawrence graduation speech entitled, “What Now,” bestselling author Ann Patchett admitted in an interview with USA Today that she asks herself that question every time she finishes a book. The answer, for Patchett, has been various awards, including the PEN/Faulkner Award in 2002 for Bel Canto; fellowships, such as a Guggenheim Fellowship for her third novel, The Magician’s Assistant; and national and worldwide recognition— Bel Canto sold over a million copies in the United States, and was translated into thirty languages.
Patchett, who served as the Zale writer-in-residence in 1999, has published five novels in her career—The Patron Saint of Liars, Taft, The Magician’s Assistant, Bel Canto, and Run. Though they cover a wide span of topics, Patchett is unafraid to admit that there is a common thread between them. “I have one theme,” the author recognized in an interview with Powells.com “A group of strangers thrown together.” To Patchett, plot is when “you’re going along, it’s fine, then everything turns upside down; people band together, sacrifices are made, there’s passion, there’s loss, there’s a journey, and at the end you cut a hole in the boat and you come out into the light.” It’s a formula that has worked for Patchett over and over, as with each book, her reputation grows.
Patchett is also the author of one work of nonfiction, a memoir entitled Truth and Beauty: A Friendship, which explores Patchett’s relationship with writer Lucy Grealy. Grealy, author of a memoir, Autobiography of a Face, died in 2002 of an accidental drug overdose. As Patchett explains in an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, her memoir was a way to “sit shiva for a year…going over the good times we had together, because things ended on a very bad note, I think it gave me all the time I needed to feel terrible and to celebrate her.”
In addition to her own work, Patchett has been a part of other literary projects as well. In 2006 she served as editor for Best American Short Stories, and she has written for numerous publications, including The Atlantic, Harper’s Magazine and The New York Times Magazine.Hailed as one of the best of her generation, Patchett’s unique writing continues to show the strength and courage that makes her worthy of such praise.