Tuesday, August 1, 2023

It's TOM LAKE Day - Ann Patchett's latest

I’m not going to lie (at least here). When we weren’t on the shortlist to host an event with Ann Patchett for Tom Lake (out today), I went to the tour list (here it is) and tried to figure out if I could attend an event elsewhere. I just couldn’t make it work.

But that’s the thing about Tom Lake; after I finished it, I just wanted to hear Ann Patchett talk about it. I will definitely attend online or hybrid conversation; it just would have been fun to be there in person. There is nothing like seeing an author talk about a book you really love, is there?

Last time around, Boswell cohosted a virtual program for These Precious Days, as it was released during peak COVID. Patchett was writing Tom Lake at that time; her latest is definitely set during COVID, but it's not, for those of you balking, a COVID novel. And of all the writers out there, COVID was a situation that was almost made for Patchett. That’s why so many folks have compared the new book to Bel Canto, another story about people being locked down, in that case, because they were hostages. But Run’s 24-hour story is set in a snowstorm, another event that forces people to be together. And here are probably more examples, if I think this through.

If you regularly read Ann Patchett, you’ll also know that she loves family stories, how they become mythologized, and how those myths are not universally held – think about this and how it relates to both Commonwealth and The Dutch House. If this is your thing, I’d suggest pre-ordering Nathan Hill’s Wellness, which I just read in a heady two-day marathon. Hill is visiting Boswell on October 23; I’m very excited for that!

There’s so much to love in Tom Lake – the farm, the summer stock, the Hollywood stories, the mother-daughter relationships. There are already seven rave reviews on LitHub, including Marion Winik’s review in The Washington Post, which begins: “So many books about love are actually about heartbreak. Ann Patchett’s new novel, Tom Lake, is not. Tom Lake is about romantic love, marital love and maternal love, but also the love of animals, the love of stories, love of the land and trees and the tiny, red, cordiform object that is a cherry. Not that a heart is not broken at some point, but it breaks without affecting the remarkable warmth of the book, set in summer’s fullest bloom.”

And of course I must include my own staff rec: “For every Jane Fonda or Rita Moreno, famous actresses into their eighties, there is a Kim Novak, who married an equine veterinarian and lived a quiet life in the countryside. Imagine if you had an acting career and then didn’t, but someone you know (the acclaimed Peter Duke) went on to a glorious career. Your family knows the story, but they don’t exactly have it quite right. More than that, each of your children has created their own mythology of the story. With the world locked down, Lara and Joe and their daughters Emily, Maisie, and Nell, are brought together to the family farm to unpack that story, set at a season of summer stock at Tom Lake, Michigan. I love how Lara’s career jump starts with a small production of Our Town, and that Thornton Wilder resonates through the rest of the story. And I love the way Patchett can write about the complications of families, even loving ones like the Nelsons. The story may be quiet, but it will stick with me for a long time.”

Context! I read Tom Lake at the same time as Laurence Leamer’s Hitchcock’s Blondes, which comes out October 10. Don’t you love when books play off each other? I do!

I would also be remiss not to mention that our buyer Jason bought a whole bunch of signed first editions. To be clear, they are tip-ins, but that appears to be good enough to sticker them. Ann also offered to personalize books for our customers. Perhaps I will have enough energy to put that together for the holidays. We’ll see if by the time I can put this together, the offer still stands.

In short, Tom Lake is out today  - buy it and read it. This is not one that you should let languish on your bookshelf.  You've got a month of summer left, more or less. I can't think of a better book to take with you wherever you're going.

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