The comfortably slim paperback book My Patchwork Life by Patricia O’Connor has quiet unassuming cover art that promises an ethnic coming-of-age tale. It is a charmingly simple tale, with easy, uncomplicated writing. Much like a high school girl’s diary, the stories needn’t flow together or make sense but can be a rambling of jumbled and unorganized thoughts.
Short chapters tell quaint, reminiscent stories that sometimes go nowhere - and don’t particularly need to - sweet personal stories that ramble here and there through O’Connor’s formative years. The overall telling feels choppy and disjointed, though, mismatched and up and down. When one steps back and takes it in as a whole, however, it is seen as a mostly straight timeline. It is very conversational in tone, with a lot of “but” and “well” as sentence openers.
Often, the stories share a parable or a tidbit of knowledge gleaned, with a large cast of characters that show a lot of variety. Each character is simple and one-sided, however, per the author’s view. The end is brief and unfulfilling, as if she simply decided to stop writing. She poses a couple of unanswered questions and leaves us with the proverbial “The End.” However, there is promise of a sequel. With that promise is the hope of questions answered.
The heartbreakingly honest reminiscing is what saves this story. She speaks of childhood mistakes and near tragedies, first romances, judgments she is witness to… all the things that truly create a young woman’s developing personality.
This is author Patricia O’Connor’s first book. Although billed as a work of fiction, the stories are drawn heavily from her own beginnings as a young girl in Ireland. The overall story is very much alive but refuses to breathe on its own. Although rough, it is easy to see potential in the author. She seems to have led a rich life, and there is hope that there will be stories left to tell.
[Reviewer’s Note: After having been offered a newer version of My Patchwork Life by the new publisher, I was very happy to see that the poor grammar had been cleaned up. Her story is able to shine through now, with no messy formatting or fundamental issues to detract from the simplistic beauty of her writing. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.]