Two plays guide the reader through Tom Lake, Ann Patchett’s ninth novel: Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, the story of ordinary lives in a small New Hampshire community in the early years of the 20th century, which, with its radically stripped-back staging, sets time and place in the context of all time and place, and enjoins its audience to ponder what is truly valuable in human life; and Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, the story of the battle for an estate that throbs with conflict, violence and, ultimately, destruction.
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