These Precious Days
Bloomsbury, $29.99 pb, 336 pp
In These Precious Days, her second essay collection (after This is the Story of a Happy Marriage in 2013), celebrated American writer Ann Patchett sets out to explore ‘what matter[s] most in this precarious and precious life’. Patchett is the author of seven novels, including Bel Canto (2001), which won the 2002 Orange Prize for Fiction, and her most recent, the internationally acclaimed The Dutch House (2019). When the pandemic struck in early 2020, Patchett did not have a novel in progress and decided that 2020 was not the time to start one. Instead, she wrote essays, something she has always done when she doesn’t have a novel on the go. Eventually she wrote the title essay about providing shelter and solace to a friend undergoing cancer treatment. It meant so much to her that it needed ‘a solid shelter’, so she crafted this book around it. It is a collection of twenty-two essays (plus an introduction and epilogue) – some of them new, some reworked versions of previously published work – in which she ‘grapples with’ themes that preoccupy her in work and life: ‘what I needed, whom I loved, what I could let go, and how much energy the letting go would take’.