Compassion and a gift for friendship are touchingly evident in Ann Patchett’s These Precious Days

It has to be one of the most extraordinary stories of lockdown — how Tom Hanks’s assistant Sooki Raphael, undergoing treatment for recurrent pancreatic cancer, came to be living in the basement of the American novelist Ann Patchett and her husband Dr Karl VanDevender. How it happened is told in the title story of These Precious Days, Patchett’s second collection of essays. Asked to endorse Hanks’s short story collection, Uncommon Type, and then to interview him on stage during his tour, Patchett first meets Sooki in the wings of a Washington theatre. Hanks, by way of reciprocation, agrees to do the audio recording of Patchett’s eighth novel, The Dutch House,