Ann Patchett doesn’t believe in writer’s block. “If it were a complicated math proof you were wrestling with instead of, say, the unknowable ending of chapter seven, would you consider yourself blocked?” she asks in “The Getaway Car,” one of the selections in her lovely new essay collection about life, love, dogs and writing.

In 22 short, illuminating pieces, Patchett expounds on the sacrament of opera, the struggles of writing and the virtues of trying out for the LAPD (which she did, in the wake of the Rodney King riots).

In “A Dog’s Life” she maintains that her pooch is not a substitute for a child. In “My Life in Sales” she discusses the perils of the book tour. And in the title piece, “This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage,” she tells the heart-wrenching tale of how she came to divorce her first husband and marry her second.

These stories (many of which were originally published in Vogue and The Atlantic magazines) are filled with the beauty and pathos you’d expect from the writer of Bel Canto and State of Wonder. But they also grant unprecedented access into the mind of a downright likable person. Can we be friends, Ann? We promise not to call your dog your “baby.”

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