Truth & Beauty

Truth & Beauty

A Friendship

Book - 2004
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What happens when the person who is your family is someone you aren't bound to by blood? What happens when the person you promise to love and to honor for the rest of your life is not your lover, but your best friend? In Truth & Beauty, her frank and startlingly intimate first work of nonfiction, Ann Patchett shines a fresh, revealing light on the world of women's friendships and shows us what it means to stand together.

Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy met in college in 1981, and, after enrolling in the Iowa Writers' Workshop, began a friendship that would be as defining to both of their lives as their work was. In her critically acclaimed and hugely successful memoir, Autobiography of a Face, Lucy Grealy wrote about losing part of her jaw to childhood cancer, the years of chemotherapy and radiation, and then the endless reconstructive surgeries. In Truth & Beauty, the story isn't Lucy's life or Ann's life, but the parts of their lives they shared. This is a portrait of unwavering commitment that spans twenty years, from the long, cold winters of the Midwest, to surgical wards, to book parties in New York. Through love, fame, drugs, and despair, this book shows us what it means to be part of two lives that are intertwined.

This is a tender, brutal book about loving a person we cannot save. It is about loyalty, and about being lifted up by the sheer effervescence of someone who knew how to live life to the fullest.

Publisher: New York : HarperCollins, c2004
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780060572143
0060572140
Characteristics: 257 p. ; 22 cm
Alternative Title: Truth and beauty

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bethwpr
Jan 24, 2017

I'm going to start by saying I've never read any of Ann Patchett's or Lucy Grealy's other books, so I don't have any prejudices one way or the other of them as creative writers, much less as people. With that said, I have to agree with the majority of the one- and two-star Goodreads reviews; I couldn't care less about either of these two people and the person about whom Patchett is writing is an attention-seeking, needy, narcissistic user, and I don't just mean of drugs, I mean of people. Moreover, Patchett often refers to herself as the "ant" in the relationship, which is to say the codependent, a role she could give up at any time but does not. Even toward the end when Patchett seems to pull away from Grealy's destructive impact due to addiction, she is second guessing her decision not to tell Grealy she was in New York the night of her overdose. Thinking Patchett could have bought Grealy more time she says,

"...and I wonder who I'm asking. She is dead, and I have nothing to ask for at all. The truth is, I would have settled for a week. In that time I would have found my patience again. It had come back to me a hundred times before. That was part of Lucy's genius in having so many friends. We all lost our patience with her, but never at the same time. If one of us was tired, there was always someone else there to pick up the lamp and lead her home. It would have been me again, I know that. There was a time, just a moment that night in the Park Avenue Cafe, I had thought I could let her go. But now I know I was simply not cut out for life without her. I am living that life now and would not choose it. If Lucy couldn't give up the heroin, I could not give up Lucy."

Oh, give me a break, Saint Ann!

This memoir does not illustrate true friendship. I was willing for the book to skip around a bit at the beginning to establish Patchett and Grealy as people, but it was so disjointed at first, I had a hard time knowing them let along sympathizing with them as people. Yes, Grealy endured terrible surgeries as a result of damage from childhood cancer treatments, but toward the end she didn't know when to stop/brought that on herself, and these trials did not make up for the fact she had an insatiable need to be liked and loved by people, collecting friends like house dust and sleeping with a lot of men in search of love, but never keeping the boyfriends, at least one of whom was still really loyal to her as a person long after they broke up. Did she even know what love was? I think she was too caught up in herself/self love to really recognize that. It was never enough. As for Patchett, as noted above, she regularly presents this story like she's the martyr putting up with the careless, irresponsible person who has more talent, and it's pretty obvious that she's passively resentful of that. As other reviewers have noted, one of Grealy's sister's wrote a column in the Guardian objecting to this book and Patchett's portrayal of her sister (there is little mention of Grealy's family and little of what is said is flattering). There are two sides to every story, but it does make one wonder what Patchett's motives were in writing this book, aside from making money off her dead "friend."

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mkbean
May 24, 2016

I really enjoyed this book. My first of Ann Patchett's. The writing, the story, the friendship, all very special. I checked out Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face as soon as I was finished and am reading that one now.

c
carolynlindstrom
Jan 08, 2015

Did not finish, memoir of friendship between disfigured woman and Ann. Got old.

WVMLStaffPicks Sep 20, 2014

Ann Patchett (Bel Canto) and Lucy Grealy (Autobiography of a Face) met at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. They became devoted friends, were frequently roommates, and their lives were forever after intertwined, for better and for worse, until Lucy Grealy's untimely death. I found this one of the saddest books I have ever read; Ann Patchett's steadfast devotion through her friend's encounters with the darkest moments imaginable and Lucy Grealy's feeling of aloneness through operation after operation.

e
ehm_chen
Jun 18, 2014

Overall, this book kept my attention, although I felt that it was drawn out, especially the last third or so. Reading this was like watching a very slow-motion car wreck, and I was filled with increasing dread throughout. Some terrific writing and insightful passages about friendship and love... but ultimately, I found it self-congratulatory and martyrly; the last sentence made me roll my eyes. Also throughout, I kept wondering how Lucy Grealy's family felt about how she was presented, and this made me quite uneasy (and I just actually read an article written by Lucy's sister, expressing her anger and sadness about Patchett's book & related article). There's talent here, but I can't help but think that there's some exploitation and lack of respect too.

z
Zoomerofall
May 14, 2014

I agree that this book is beautifully written, though harrowing. The intensity of the friendship is almost painful to witness through Patchett's account of it. I doubt that Patchett is religious, but the devotion she showed her friend is Christlike.

Patchett writes about her long and special relationship with fellow writer Lucy Grealy (author of ‘Autobiography of a Face’). A heartbreaking and tender story of friendship and commitment. Read together these two books provide special insights on love, laughter, and the beauty of life.

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LyndaLovelyWright
Feb 19, 2014

Didn't finish. Got tired of the narcissism of the "friend".

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mockingbird7
Jul 23, 2013

First, let me say that I would read anything Ann Patchett wrote. Second, this book is well named. Based on the true story of Ann Patchett's long-time friendship with fellow author Lucy Grealy, it does an excellent job of exploring the deeper meaning of life, friendship, art and beauty.

a
annekim9
Aug 20, 2012

A beautifully written memoir of a friendship between two writers, Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy. They became best friends after college graduation when they both were students in the Iowa Writers' Workshop, a two year residency program. Lucy was a very complex, needy, intelligent, difficult yet charming person. Ann was such an devoted friend to her. Lucy had part of her jaw removed at age nine when she was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma. She endured numerous surgeries since then, and problems with her face continued. The story of Ann and Lucy's extraordinary friendship will stay with you. Try to listen to the audiobook... Ann narrates the story with beautiful expression. Lucy wrote the acclaimed memoir Autobiography of a Face.

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LyndaLovelyWright
Feb 19, 2014

LyndaLovelyWright thinks this title is suitable for 21 years and over

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