Ann Patchett offered her bookstore as a place for solace and peace after school shooting

Jun 5, 2023

Ann Patchett on twitter

When tragedy came to Nashville, when a person with a gun shot to death three children and three adults at a local school in late March, internationally acclaimed writer Ann Patchett did what booksellers do — invited people in. Report by Lisa Tolin, editorial director at PEN America.

In an emotional video on social media, Patchett sent love to those at the nearby Covenant School where the shooting occurred and invited community members to her store, Parnassus Books, if they needed somewhere to go, and if their kids needed a place to just be kids.

“We’re not here to sell you books. We’re here because we love you and we’re your friends and we’re a place to come. We want you here with us. So, if you don’t know what to do today and you don’t know where to go, come here and be with us and hold a dog and just know that we care,” she said.

In the video, the bestselling author and PEN America member held her dog, Sparky VanDevender, and invited kids to a previously planned dog-friendly event with Dog Man creator Dav Pilkey.

About 150 kids and parents came to the event, where a therapy dog named Marlee wearing a Dog Man cape posed for photos and received pets from everyone.

“One of the many wonderful things about independent bookstores is that they give us a place to be,” Ann Patchett said. “We celebrate at Parnassus, we dance, we launch wonderful books, we host story time readings. Today we mourn.

“Sometimes you need a place to go when you’re alone or with your family or wanting to meet friends,” she added. “Sometimes you need a place to go when you want to hide, when you can’t imagine what could possibly make you feel better, when you don’t feel like being by yourself. Sometimes you just need to hold a book or hold a dog.

“Sometimes you go to a bookstore because you’re looking for a particular book and sometimes you go to a bookstore because it’s the only place you can think of that makes any sense.”

Patchett, the author of Bel Canto, The Dutch House, These Precious Days and other novels and children’s books, has been called “a patron saint of indie bookstores,”and earlier this month received a National Humanities Medal from President Joe Biden.

Her Parnassus Books Foundation provides free books and sends authors to underserved schools in the Nashville area.

Lisa Tolin, editorial director at PEN America

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