Books: Ann Patchett on Petoskey's best bookstore and her new novel

Jun 8, 2011

Ann Patchett, Petoskey bookstore enthusiast and award-winning author, has a new book.

Patchett is the author of five previous novels, including Bel Canto, which won the Pen/Faulkner and the Orange Prize.

The plot of her new book, State of Wonder, features a pharmaceutical researcher sucked into an international adventure with a potentially huge-profit-making drug at its heart.

A self-described ‘homebody,’ Patchett has written a book that ranges far and wide, exploring numerous different geographies, with much of the action taking place in the depths of the Amazon jungle.

Patchett said this to Diane Rehm about the tension between wanting to stay home and let your mind roam.

It’s the life of the mind. I think that’s the perfect thing for a homebody to do…When I’m home, I can very happily imagine other places.

Her research for the book, including a trip to South America, was predictably stressful for someone who prefers hanging out with her family (and her dog). Again, from the Diane Rehm Show:

My husband and I did go to the Amazon. And for three days it was the most beautiful, thrilling, exciting, deeply gorgeous thing I had ever seen in my life. But unfortunately for me I stayed for ten days. And by the seventh or eighth day, I would have sold my soul to the devil to get out of there.

Claustrophobia! Those leaves, they just squash you. They’re everywhere, you can’t get out. You can’t take a walk by yourself on the amazon because something might kill you…

You know, the ants or the bees. Once, we were taking a very small walk through the jungle with a guide. And the guide all of a sudden said, alright, now we’re all going to whisper, and we’re not going to make a sound, we’re going to walk very quietly. Because in that tree there are killer bees.

And this sort of Hanna-Barbera cartoon image of the bees coming out of the trees and forming an arrow and then killing you. It felt like that.

Last year, Patchett declared her affection for the McLean and Eakin bookstore in Petoskey, MI, in what can only be described as very glowing terms.

From Patchett’s piece in the New York Times:

When I walked into the bookstore of this dreamy little town, at that moment, all the other bookstores I’ve known in my life fell away.

Julie Norcross founded McLean & Eakin Booksellers in 1992, naming it for her two grandmothers. Like the town she comes from, she must have a long history of people falling in love with her at first sight.

She’s one of those supremely competent individuals who would have made an excellent pioneer. One imagines she could build a sod house in a pinch, but she can also tell a joke, drink a martini, run a business.

The books at McLean & Eakin are arranged to beckon, and there are plenty of big chairs to fall into once you heed their call. It is the kind of store where I could happily spend a summer.

Patchett will return to her favorite independent bookstore on June 20, 2011, for a reading in support of State of Wonder.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom