Issue #219: Switzerland
by Ann Patchett

219_coverI have been a fan of Ann Patchett’s writing since I first read The Magician’s Assistant. Along with her legions of fans, I have awaited each new book of hers with great joy and expectation, and it gives me ENORMOUS pleasure to have the chance to run a piece of fiction by Ann in our pages. This heartwarming tale of a mother and daughter re-connecting at a Zen Retreat moved me to tears. I know that you will all enjoy it, and I hope that you will also read Ann’s new book, Commonwealth. Contributing Editor Patrick Ryan brought this lovely tale to our shores, so I am turning the official introduction reins into his talented and capable hands. Be sure to check out our Q&A with Ann, where she talks about meditation, acceptance, and how to dial up the volume of pages when she’s writing.-HT


“Switzerland” is a story about a mother visiting a daughter who’s gone off to live at a Zen Study Center halfway around the world. It’s about a retiree diving deep into meditation for the first time in her life. And it’s about a parent reaching for her children long after both life and death have stepped in the way.

Whenever I read Ann Patchett, I discover something new about what great writing can do. More importantly, I discover something new about living. Joy, grief, regret, forgiveness, a grappling with the past and a hesitant embrace of the present—they’re all here.

We’re thrilled to be presenting you with this new story by Ann Patchett. Take a deep breath, clear your thoughts, and open your mind to the beauty of “Switzerland.”

4 thoughts on “Issue #219: Switzerland
by Ann Patchett

  1. It was past midnight already, so I only meant to glance at the first couple of pages of “Switzerland.” Of course, once I cracked that dainty spine, I couldn’t stop reading. I very much enjoyed the story–particularly the ending and POV management–but I couldn’t help noticing the simplicity of Patchett’s prose style. I’ve often found (to my delight) that some of my very favorite One Story stories showcase tremendous stylistic ingenuity on the sentence level–first to mind are Lydia Fitzpatrick’s “Safe” and Coyle’s “Fear Itself.” “Switzerland” is told in such clear, simple prose (that supports the story thematically), yet it left me rapt. It’s nice to be surprised, and that’s what One Story stories do every month!

  2. A sublime piece of fiction. It might be perfect. Touching and beautiful throughout. It’s jaw-dropping to read a master’s work.

  3. Of all the “One Story” installments I’ve read, this is my favorite. It depicts a real relationship examined without emotional indulgence, but with plenty of emotional honesty. I walked away feeling that I had seen a little more clearly the costs and gifts of family.

  4. The ending of this story took my breath away. In fact, to call it to mind now makes me tear up. As a mother, I can clearly remember the weight of my son’s body and the comfort I felt when he leaned against mine when he was a child. He still does and it brings me peace and comfort and a sense of all being well with the world that NOTHING else does and he’s an adult now. The use of the word weight. That. That thing that we as mothers all understand viscerally. The simplicity yet fully emotionally charged final two sentences were beautiful in their starkness.

    Not to shortchange the scene in DeGaulle airport when Teresa reflects on her honeymoon and the love she bore and then lost for her husband was beautifully real, capturing both emotions without overplaying either. I will definitely seek out more of Ann Pachett’s writing. I read a few books years ago…time to catch up 🙂 Thank you so much for publishing this in your inimitable format.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *