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Taft

3.37 of 5 stars 3.37  ·  rating details  ·  3,016 ratings  ·  315 reviews
John Nickel is a black ex-jazz musician who only wants to be a good father. But when his son is taken away from him, he's left with nothing but the Memphis bar he manages. Then he hires Fay, a young white waitress, who has a volatile brother named Carl in tow. Nickel finds himself consumed with the idea of Taft, Fay and Carl's dead father, and begins to reconstruct the lif...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published April 6th 1999 by Ballantine Books (first published October 1st 1994)
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Barbara
I did enjoy reading this book, but I cannot resist comparing it to Patchett's later work, Bel Canto , which was a shining example for her. It is for this reason dificult for me to give this novel a 4 star rating, but a 3.5 would be quite adequate.

As one can easily see from the description given about this book, it involves a man named John Nickel. He is an ex-jazz musician, running a barroom. His girlfriend has left him, taking their beloved son. Much of the time, John seems unfocused and in a d...more
Kara
I am continuing to read Ann Patchett on the strength of her radio interviews and the beautiful things that she says about the writing process and the writer’s life. Her first novel The Patron Saint of Liars did not blow me away—she had a good story, some lovely themes, and a nifty idea for perspective—but I wasn’t left feeling moved or changed, which is what I expect when I finish a novel. I felt the same way when I put down Patchett’s second novel Taft, which is to say that I didn’t feel much....more
Arah-Lynda
A Girl walked into the bar. What a great opening line. Right away it had me asking questions.

This is the fourth Patchett novel I have read and one of her earliest. While not as good as Bel Canto or State of Wonder it is still a very enjoyable read.

John Nickel lives in Memphis and is an ex jazz drummer and current bar manager. The girl that walks into his bar is Fay Taft and through her we meet her brother Carl. John over identifies with these two troubled teenagers who have recently and very su...more
James
This book was compelling and an engaging read but it left me a little disappointed. I think that I expected more out of the ending then I got though I can't tell you what I was expecting. The end seemed obvious and shallow. The conflict never built to anything and it was ignored in the end. I feel sometimes when I am this disappointed in an ending that I just didn't get it and that may be the case here. I enjoyed reading the book but didn't enjoy ending it.
Sharneel
This was very different in many ways. First, although it deals much with romantic love, it is also a huge testimony on parental love and what one does as a parent or one needs from it as a child. We are given the contrast between Taft, a fairly stereotypical, lower middle class father and his roles, etc. to that of Nickel, a parent who has never married the mother of his child, but who, nonetheless, loves his son so much and is willing to sacrifice much to make sure he is happy and taken care of...more
bookczuk
What a total surprise this book was! I'd never heard of it before stumbling over it at Goodwill. Bel Canto had such beautiful writing (though there were times the slowness drove me a bit batty) that I just had to pick it up.

It was wonderful. A story of a father's love in two families. The characters and relationships rich and satisfying, though I wanted to smack both Fay and CArl at various times for thier thick headed stubborn ways.

A couple of passages grabbed me- because of how Patchett captu...more
Karolyn Sherwood
Taft is Ann Patchett's second novel out of an oeuvre of six (plus a few non-fiction works). To date, I had read all her other novels; this was my final one to read. If you've followed my previous reviews, you know by now that I love her work, but I have to say this is my least favorite.

Patchett has a formula—that is not a bad thing. She twists the stories so well that it's difficult to lump them into any single category. Patchett likes to throw total strangers into a bowl and see how they mix. I...more
Sas
Taft by Ann Patchett is a gently written story that I enjoyed immensely.

A girl walked into a bar. This is a provocative opening to the story. It instantly brought up questions. How old? Why did she walk into the bar?
Who is she?

The bar is managed by John Nickles. John is black and had been a jazz musician. He lost his son who had given meaning to his life as the boys mother had before she conceived. When John was finally ok with it the situation was already to late.

John Nickel is frought with d...more
Liz
This is a lovely little read about the parallels of two men who never met and never will. A young black man (John)who runs a bar and is trying to make sense of his life after making sacrifices for love and family and a white man (Taft) who has children young and is working hard to try and make ends meet. When Taft dies suddenly is family is thrown into chaos and his two young children cross paths with John and their lives become entwined, complicated and simple as both men are haunted by the oth...more
Judy
I had to give this one four stars, because I gave "The Patron Saint of Liars" three, and this one was better. In fact, it's quite good, though still not up to the level of "Bel Canto."

The story pulls you right in: Black bar owner hires a white girl to work for him, and each senses the other's vulnerabilities and weaknesses, their longings, where the missing pieces are. They are kind to each other, but the prognosis is not good, and some pretty bad things happen along the way.

Patchett is such a m...more
Amy
Patchett does a wonderful job incorporating music into her stories. John Nickel is an ex drummer who now runs a bar. He hires a waitress named Fay Taft and her brother Carl who only seems to bring trouble with him. Nickel seems like a regular guy just trying to do right and hopefully get his son closer to home. He also constructs a history of Fay's father which seems like it could be true and is never confirmed nor denied. Patchett did a good job of this in her writing. She switched back and for...more
Diana H.
Ann Patchett takes her readers on a journey with every story she tells. This book is no exception.

A black, ex-musician, bar manager (Nickel) in Memphis hires a young white girl to wait table in his bar. He doesn't know anything about her background and doesn't really believe her claim to be old enough to work in a bar, but he hires her anyway.
What Nickel doesn't realize is that when he hires this young woman (Fay) he is also taking on her troubled brother, Carl. Carl comes to the bar each night...more
Nicole
If I could have given this novel 2.5 stars I would have but instead I opted to rate it down which is unfortunate because I usually enjoy Patchett's offerings. This tells the story of John Nickel, a former drummer who is now the manager of a bar in Memphis who pines the loss of his son who is currently relocated in Memphis with his mother. The majority of the novel centers on Nickel's interactions with the various staff that work at the bar. Early on a new hire, Fay, enters the picture along with...more
Jeanette
Ann Pratchett has the ability to create characters that are both unusual and believable. Each of her novels I have read have been unique. This description definitely describes Taft. Taft whose young son has moved away with his mother to Florida and Taft misses his son. Without his son to help care for, he is left with the bar he manages. When a young woman name Fay applies for a job at the bar, Taft hires her even though he is unsure whether she is old enough to work there. Her brother, Carl, sh...more
Diane
Not my favorite Ann Patchett novel. As always, Patchett is skillful in her character development but there were some major faultlines with the plot. A very young-looking 17 year old white girl walks into a blues bar managed by a black middle-aged, former musician. He hires her on the spot. What? Why? She looks too young (and is!) and he's been around the block to know that this can be trouble. Her almost-twin brother, Carl, hangs out with her and looks like trouble but John lets him take up spac...more
Betty
This was the only book that Ann Patchett has written that I had not read. I believe this is her second book and not one you usually hear about when her name comes up. I have been wanting to read it for some time an was able to get it through my library's interlibrary loans since it was not one my library owned. It is a story of John Nickles, a black former jazz musician who is presently running a bar in Memphis. He is a father whose child has been taken to Miami by his mother. A young white girl...more
Judith
In Taft, Patchett takes on the character of a black man. And does it well, as best as I can tell. In her notes about this book, she says she tried out narration from many different characters' points of view and when she tried John Nickel's it fell into place. She also considers this novel the poor stepchild, the forgotten one, compared to her other books.

It's a remarkable tale, about a young white girl, Fay Taft, who asks to be a waitress at the bar managed by Nickel. He hires her, finds she is...more
D'Anne
Taft is not Ann Patchett's strongest work - and even she's admitted that Taft is not the best title for a novel. However, Taft is still a good read. It's a story primarily of fatherhood and loyalty - however misplaced. I've read all of Patchett's books, starting with the non-fiction Truth and Beauty, and think that Patchett is one of the best novelists writing today. She has a gift for language and is poetic without being thick. She also knows how to weave a story. Her characters, even those tha...more
Susan
after I read Bel Canto I put everything by Patchett on my hold list and it all became available at once (Patron Saint of Liars is next). I liked this, liked the setting of Memphis since I could picture it and had an idea of the culture. I was intrigued by the "slow reveal" of the narrator - I just assumed from the first few pages that he was black, not because of any particular thing, but a combination - Memphis, blues, and I want to say language but there was nothing particularly "black" about...more
Carol  MacInnis
John Nickel, an up and coming blues drummer met a girl, Marion and began seeing each other. Theirs was a fairy tale love story but as time passed, no matter how much love and affection Marion gave to John he found himself being nothing more than cruel towards her. Marion was eighteen and John was twenty-five when Marion happily announced she was pregnant. Throughout her pregnancy Marion clung to John only to be shunned by him. When her water broke she found her way to a phone and called John to...more
emi Bevacqua
Ann Patchett is amazing, she writes so well no matter what voice, or subject, or format. I don't know the American South but reading Taft I felt it like I was in it. It was such an effortless, enjoyable read, I have to put all her books on my to-read list pronto.

The story is mostly about fatherhood but also touches on jazz and race and relationships in general. The story mostly takes place at a bar in Memphis that John (a black ex-jazz drummer) runs, where he hires a young white waitress named...more
Judy
I would give this 3 1/2 starsif I could.

This is my least favorite of Patchett's books. The pace was slow, the writing not as refined or lyrical as her others. As usual, however, her characters come to life in a way that has stayed with me.

The book begins, "A girl walked into the bar. " I both love that and am annoyed by it.

Patchett has a piece about the book in the reading guide, in which she says, "When people ask me which of my own books I like best, chances are I'm going to say Taft, the sam...more
Molly
I am amused so many are struck by her starting the book with, "A girl walks into a bar." This is clever? This is the start of a joke. It is, of course, a move that changes all the lives within, but nonetheless, I'm not sure I fully connect to the emphasis placed upon it.

Which doesn't mean I think the book itself is a joke. I just think the attention could be turned to the ways in which Patchett examines relationships, particularly that of the father-son and partially that of the mother-daughter....more
Sarah
It was good as a story about fathers trying to do what's best for and protect their kids. I read it mostly to find out what happens to the children in the story, hoping that they'll be okay. Two of the kids in the story are seriously struggling after the loss of their father and it was touching to watch the last days of their family as happy through the eyes of their father.
I had difficulty falling in love with the main character (a different father) and a couple of times he seemed to do things...more
Janis Harrington
I like Ann Patchett, but this book, although after having written two books claimed it was her favorite, did not match up to Bel Canto, a later book. The character Taft is in John Nckel's imagination. Levon Taft did live and die, but we can't be sure what John imagined was really the truth. She needed to work on transitions between the Taft scenes and John's story. John was a likable, but foolish character. His heart is in the right lace, but he makes strange decisions. I liked the book, but if...more
Jsarno49
It's interesting that I finished this book on Father's Day, for it is the story of two fathers and their relationships with their children. John Nickel, the manager of a bar in Memphis, hires Fay Taft as a waitress and takes on a fatherly role in her dysfunctional family. In the meantime, he misses his own son who is growing up in Florida. Priorities become clear for everyone in the end. While this is not my favorite Patchett novel, it's a good story and well written.
Nancy Kackley
The story was interesting and the interplay of the characters was engaging. I think that men, especially fathers, might enjoy it a bit more than me since they might understand and connect with the emotions of the main character and one of the secondary characters who is also a father. The portrayal of two fathers with two radically different life stories, from two very separate parts of American society, is probably the most interesting theme of the story.
Ronni
Oh man, I had no idea Ann Patchett could write a book I wouldn't be into. But she could and she did. I cared about the characters, I liked the writing well enough, I liked the back and forth structure, I really liked the ambiguity of what was imagined, what was real, I wanted to know what was going to happen next, and yet, inexplicably, I found myself looking forward to plowing through and getting on to something I'd be enthusiastic about. Why? Who knows?
Scott
This is my third Ann Patchett novel (Run and Bel Canto) and each time I totally fall in love with her. She has such enormous love and respect and generosity of spirit for her characters, shown even as bad things happen, that I want... I don't know, like I want to live in one her books. Or have Patchett be my god. Or marry her, Anyway, the plot of Taft: our narrator is Nickel, a thirty-plus, one-time blues drummer, black, bar manager in Memphis with a nine-year-old son who he doesn't see nearly e...more
Jelan
I didn't love this book as much as I loved State of Wonder. To me, Taft felt more than occasionally like a "contemplating your navel" book. It was beautifully written with well-drawn characters, but... I struggled to really relate to the story. And I certainly didn't love the ending. When I heard Ann Patchett speak, she said a difference between commercial fiction and literary fiction was the reader's experience. With commercial fiction, readers all experience it in basically the same way. Liter...more
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Patchett was born in Los Angeles, California. Her mother is the novelist Jeanne Ray.

She moved to Nashville, Tennessee when she was six, where she continues to live. Patchett said she loves her home in Nashville with her doctor husband and dog. If asked if she could go any place, that place would always be home. "Home is ...the stable window that opens out into the imagination."

Patchett attended hi...more
More about Ann Patchett...
Bel Canto State of Wonder Run Truth and Beauty The Magician's Assistant

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