Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
The Goods: In an unnamed South American country, a band of terrorists raids the birthday party of a Japanese businessman in an attempt to kidnap the President, who has, at the last minute, decided to skip the party to watch his favorite soap opera. Thwarted, the terrorists hold the partygoers instead. To call the haunting and dream-like hostage scenario that ensues Stockholm Syndrome would be entirely inaccurate. It's so much better than that.
Thoughts: Most writers that I love, I love selectively. That said, every book that Ann Patchett has written is marvelous, and this one is her best. It is also one of a handful of books that has made me cry while reading it (on an airplane, surrounded by strangers, no less).
Actually, that reading experience says a lot about Bel Canto. It's 2002 and I'm reading a book about terrorists on an airplane and all I can think of is how beautiful and sad it is. That, my friends, is a fine book.
If you like...: books where an ensemble of characters comes together so seamlessly, it's like a choir - like The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter, or the high lonesome magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, this book is for you.
And check out other books by Ann Patchett, too. Especially her memoir of her friendship with writer Lucy Grealy, Truth & Beauty: A Friendship.