Ann Patchett on Summer Love and Her New Novel

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Ann Patchett’s new novel, “Tom Lake,” is set in northern Michigan during the early days of pandemic lockdown, and centers on a mother telling her grown daughters about the summer fling she had in her youth with an actor who went on to become a big star. Reviewing it in The Times (mostly favorably), Alexandra Jacobs noted that “Tom Lake” is a “resolutely folksy, cozy” novel, and on this week’s podcast Patchett tells the host Gilbert Cruz that that’s exactly how she wanted it — even though she knows some readers are skeptical of happy books.

“If a person writes a book about a serial killer, no one ever comes back around and says, This isn’t realistic,” Patchett says. “But if you write a book about a family that loves each other, you get busted for it. It’s — do you want me to put some zombies in my novel? The fact is, I know so many kind people. I have been on the receiving end of endless kindness and love in my life. And it’s very representative of part of the world. I am not speaking for everything.”

Patchett also discusses life as a bookseller (she owns the store Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn.) and talks about Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town” as a touchstone for her novel, among other topics.

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