Amazon… A virtual marketplace, or Big Brother?

It’ll be a cold day in Hell before I review books on Amazon unless they clarify the reason for this blogger being prohibited from reviewing books on their site.

imy santiago

A couple of weeks ago I read the third installment of a series I really loved. I will refrain from sharing the name of the novel and its author.

Like any reader, as soon as I finished reading, I wrote my review. When I tried posting it on Amazon (I did buy the eBook, just like any normal and decent human being would), I received a rather concerning email.

I will not share the screenshot of the email as it does contain the title of the book and name of the author. In its place I have copied the body of the email below.

Dear Amazon Customer,

Thanks for submitting a customer review on Amazon. Your review could not be posted to the website in its current form. While we appreciate your time and comments, reviews must adhere to the following guidelines:

Here I was, thinking I had included an…

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Happy Marriage?

Yes, Bill and I were happily married for seven years despite the fact that I had to care for him at home, but that’s not what I’m writing about this time. I just finished reading This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. I blogged about this author a year ago when I reviewed The Patron Saint of Liars.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage is a collection of essays not just about Ann Patchett’s marriage but about other aspects of her life. In one piece, she talks about what it was like to be a child of divorced parents, living with her mother in Tennessee and occasionally visiting her father in California and talking to him on the phone. In another, she describes how her father, a cop, influenced her to train for and take the Los Angeles police academy’s entrance exams which she did just so she could write about the experience. She also talks about her memoir, Truth and Beauty, in which she describes her friendship with another writer who was disfigured as a result of cancer and died of a drug overdose. She provides the impassioned speech she gave to incoming freshmen at a small southern university in 2006, despite controversy surrounding the book. In “The Bookstore Strikes Back,” she relates how she opened Parnassus Books in Nashville in 2011 when the city had no other bookstores. In the’ title essay, she talks about her first marriage and divorce and how she married her second husband Karl years later after swearing she would never marry again.

Besides The Patron Saint of Liars, Ann Patchett wrote five novels: Taft, The Magician’s Assistant, Bel Canto, Run, and State of Wonder. She edited Best American Short Stories in 2006 and wrote one other nonfiction book besides Truth and Beauty and This is The Story of a Happy Marriage. It’s called What Now and is an expansion of her commencement address at Sarah Lawrence College. She is also a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s workshop and received numerous awards and fellowships including England’s Orange Prize, the PEN/Faukner Award, the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Book Sense Book of the Year, a Gugenheim Fellowship, The Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize, the American Bookseller’s Association’s Most Engaging Author Award, and the Women’s National Book Association’s Award. Her books were New York Times Notable Books and New York Times Bestsellers. Her work was translated into over thirty languages.

Since she opened Parnassus Books, she has advocated for independent booksellers and talked about books and bookstores on NPR’s “The Colbert Report,” “The Martha Stewart Show,” and “The CBS Early Show.” She was the honorary chair of World Book Night along with James Patterson. In 2012, Time Magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. She lives in Nashville with her husband Karl VanDevender and their dog Sparky. For more information about her and her books, visit .

One essay in this book made me wonder if I should like Ann Patchett. She talks about her dog Rose and how she made the painful decision to have her put down when the dog could no longer walk, see, or eat. Then she talks about how she acquired Rose.

She and her husband saw Rose as a puppy at a local park. At the time, a girl was planning to give Rose away at an upcoming dog show. After Ann and her husband left the park, Rose tugged at Ann’s heart strings, and she insisted on returning to the park and collecting her. When they did, they found Rose in the arms of a five-year-old deaf girl. Ann lied to the little girl’s mother, saying there was a misunderstanding, that the owner promised the puppy to her, and unfortunately for the little girl, her mother believed Ann’s story. Here’s the irony. Rose is the name of the main character in The Patron Saint of Liars who doesn’t tell anyone about her husband when she checks into a home for unwed mothers, not even after her baby is born.

After giving this careful consideration, I realized that not reading any more of Ann Patchett’s work because she stole a puppy from a five-year-old would be like not letting my teen-aged niece listen to Michael Jackson because he died of a drug overdose. As a society, we often allow a person’s actions to reflect on their careers. There are worse things than stealing a puppy from a five-year-old, and as I write this, I find myself at peace with the issue. Ann Patchett is a baffling author, and I definitely plan to read more of her work including Truth and Beauty. Her writing makes me wonder.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, and That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press

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A Tangled Web

In 1967, Rose, pregnant and alone, drives from her home in California all the way to Kentucky to stay in a home for unwed mothers. Thus begins Ann Patchett’s novel, Patron Saint of Liars. Actually, the story starts years earlier in Kentucky when a farmer discovers a bubbling spring on his land. To his astonishment, his sick or wounded livestock are healed after drinking from the pool. Then his daughter falls gravely ill, and after being given water from the spring, she is healed. 

The news travels far and wide, and a wealthy landowner buys the portion of the farmer’s property containing the spring and builds a hotel. Later, the spring dries up, and the hotel is sold to the Catholic Church and eventually becomes St. Elizabeth’s Home for Unwed Mothers, managed by an order of nuns.

Rose isn’t your typical unwed mother. In fact, she’s married, but for reasons unclear even to her, she’s not happy. When she discovers she’s pregnant, she consults her local priest who refers her to St. Elizabeth’s, far away from California where no one will find her. After leaving a note that doesn’t say much, she hits the road.

You’d think that after being around unwed mothers with no husbands who are forced to give up their babies, Rose would realize her mistake and return home, but that’s not what happens. When she arrives at St. Elizabeth’s, she tells everyone her baby’s father is dead, a common lie. She soon starts working in the kitchen and develops a friendship with an old nun who is quick to provide information about a saint for each day of the year, but there doesn’t seem to be a saint of liars.

Right before Rose is scheduled to give birth, she decides to keep the baby but not to go back to her husband. She marries Wilson, the facility’s maintenance worker who has fallen in love with her and doesn’t know her past. She never tells him, and he never shares his painful past with her. Her daughter Cecelia is born and grows up at St. Elizabeth’s, surrounded by unwed mothers who dote on her as if she were their own. As a teen-ager, she develops a friendship with one of the girls who is close to her age. Will she learn the truth about her mother’s past and who her father really is? The ending might surprise you.


Ann Patchett was born on December 2nd, 1963 in Los Angeles. Her mother, Jeanne Ray, is a novelist. Ann moved to Nashville when she was six, and that’s where she lives with her husband and dog. She went to high school at St. Bernard Academy, a Catholic school for girls run by the Sisters of Mercy. After graduation, she attended Sarah Lawrence College where she took fiction writing classes with Allan Gurganus, Russell Banks, and Grace Paley. She later attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Fine arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts where she met Elizabeth McCracken, a longtime friend. While in Massachusetts, she wrote Patron Saint of Liars. In 2010, she co-founded Parnassus Books in Nashville after discovering that her hometown didn’t have a good bookstore. In 2012, she was on Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people. I’m looking forward to reading her memoir, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, in which she talks about her life with her husband and dog and her experiences running a bookstore, among other things. 

After the prolog, Patron Saint of Liars is divided into three sections in which the story is told from the first person point of view of each of the three main characters: Rose, Wilson, and Cecelia. I found Rose frustrating, a complex character I couldn’t understand. I wanted to shake her by the shoulders for her lack of consideration for her family; yet I was amazed by her care of the elderly nun and the other girls. In any case, I was relieved to find Wilson and Cecelia more down to earth, more practical. I like the way the characters relate their experiences as if they were talking to me face to face.

Patron Saint of Liars can be purchased from the author’s Website in a variety of print and recorded formats. It’s also available from Bookshare. I found this book hard to put down, and I hope you will, too.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver