What Now? by Ann Patchett

Since I really enjoyed Bel Canto, I went to my local library and tried to pick up another of Patchett’s novels. After discovering that all of them were checked out, I tried What Now?, a thin, but powerfully packed work of nonfiction. This little book is basically an extended version of a graduation speech which Ann Patchett delivered at her alma mater.  I read it from front to back in about an hour, but the points that she made and the advice offered stuck with me.  And, if it hadn’t been a library book, I would’ve highlighted just about every other sentence.

The writing is engaging, witty, and full of useful comments that are particularly poignant to me as a young person looking for the next things in life. I think that anyone who has felt the pressure of being bombarded with questions about “what are you doing next?” would enjoy this book. Also, Patchett uses several vignettes to describe her own experiences as an undergraduate and path towards becoming a writer, which I think would interest anyone in the English and creative writing program at SBC.  One of my favorite quotes from the book, starting on page 76: “It took me a long time of pulling racks of scorching hot glasses out of the dishwasher, the clouds of steam smoothing everything around me into a perfect field of gray, to understand that writing a novel and living a life are very much the same thing. The secret is finding the balance between going out to get what you want and being open to the thing that actually winds up coming your way.”

Kate Beach

One Response to “What Now? by Ann Patchett”

  1. Carrie Brown says:


    I’ve given this book to a number of young people. I wish it had been around when I graduated from college!


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