https://harpers.org/archive/2021/01/these-precious-days-ann-patchett-psilocybin-tom-hanks-sooki-raphael/

These precious days is a heartbreaking long read by Ann Patchett about an unlikely friendship developed between her and Sooki Raphael, Tom Hank’s assistant. It is written from Ann’s heart and is a great display of the healing power of storytelling.

Tom Hanks writes a short story book that is reviewed by Ann. Tom asks Ann to accompany her for a book tour. It is then Ann gets a little closer to Sooki. Eventually after finding that Sooki has cancer, Ann invites her to Nashville since Ann’s husband is a doctor in a hospital known for the treatment. The relationship between the two is the subject of the book which is almost a novella size book and an emotional roller coaster. Ann’s writing is magical and she treats the real life event as unfolding of a story. Anyone who has written anything fictional, knows that the characters take over the story and the story goes in directions you never intended it to go. A similar thing happens with life too. Narratives are mostly woven looking back. When things actually happen in real time, you do not know how your life is going to unfold.

When you start reading the story, you feel that it is going to be about Tom Hanks, but it turns out that he is a bit player in the story. There are many places where similar things happen. You expect the story to behave in a certain way, but it has its own mind. Ann makes sure that the reader understands the unpredictability of life and the highlights the myth of a difference between fiction and reality. In several places, she seems to talk to authors and ask them in a mocking tone, “Do you think you are writing the story?”

It reminded me of Anand, the emotional masterpiece by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, in the sense of a cancer patient getting in a totally different environment and making the best friends of his life in the short period he stays with them. Anand has a lot of emotional melodrama but the core point of life being short, comes across very effectively in the movie. There is a similar thread of philosophy in “These precious days” as well and the reader is surprised to find out the transformation in the personality of the leading characters due to the defining event.

Considering much of the proceedings are happening in the coronavirus pandemic days, it is amazing to see the impact of these events on the author’s life. It is as if the pandemic did not exist in their lives since much more was happening. The seed of the reason why the story became so interesting is also in the existence of the pandemic. The pandemic is what made us stay at home for months. A kind of period that allows intimacy to build or bonds to break if they are weak. In case of Ann and Sooki, the former turned out to be the case.

Please do yourself a favor and read it. It is a long read, almost the size of a novella, but is a magical read.