Ann Patchett

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Ann Patchett

Once upon a day

Lofty expectations and a huge fanbase can be tricky stuff.

After the wild success of her last novel Bel Canto, a dazzling stew of opera, international love and South American terrorists, Patchett mixes things up in her latest by going small.

Run spans a mere 24 hours in the lives of the splintered Doyle family, a Boston clan made up of a former mayor, an ichthyologist, an elderly priest with healing powers and an 11-year-old track star. The action is sparked by a car accident in a snowstorm and then propelled by the slow reveal of uncomfortable secrets and unexpected family connections.

Sounds like a soap opera, but with her sharp, elegant prose, deft use of point-of-view that roves effortlessly from character to character, and a few side trips into magical realism, Patchett transforms the drama into a moving and memorable account of the wonders of family.