What can I Possibly read after the Dutch House?

Tom Hanks read it to me in my car. It was so lovely of him to do that for me. To sit by my side and read for over twelve hours. And to put his love and feeling into the chapters. And the way he announced each new chapter with a zing in his voice. I was so lucky. But I guess Rita called and he had to go home eventually.

I read Ann Patchett’s Run while I was listening to Tom read The Dutch House. These were my first two Ann Patchett books and half way through each, I thought the books were lovely but maybe just not for me. And now at the end of both, within a 24 hour span, I am lost without her characters. Without Elkins Park or Boston. You know what it was? (I say this in the voice of Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle.) The books were not about finding love. They weren’t romantic. I didn’t know how to love a novel that didn’t feature a love story. And yet now I see the beauty of it. So much of life is not the traditional love story and isn’t that non-love story so beautiful. Aren’t all the stories not about falling in love and living happily ever after, worthy? Worthy of our time and admiration? Worthy of our pondering? Worthy of time spent walking around with characters missing mothers, characters going off to school and longing for home, or characters reminiscing about their childhoods?

The reason why I had been planning to read The Dutch House is because I know the painter of the book cover for The Dutch House. Well, he is a friend of my cousin. A real artist, Noah Saterstrom. Of a glorious painting of the character who we love. Maeve Conway.

Ann Patchett and Noah Saterstrom’s painting of Maeve. Photo from the Literary Hub

To read more about the book or the cover art, click here for an article from the Walt Street Journal.

After reading these two books, I feel I know so little about the beauty of life. For all these years, I thought reading fiction was about love stories the same way I only watch rom coms on rainy Sunday afternoons. For forty nine years, I have limited myself as a reader, and maybe as a writer, or even as liver. A liver of life, yet limited by the only valuing the novels of romance.

What if I accepted that life isn’t solely a story of romantic love? What if I saw beauty in the all the other stories?

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