The author of Bel Canto -- winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Orange Prize and long-running New York Times bestseller -- turns to nonfiction in a moving chronicle of her decades-long friendship with the critically acclaimed and recently deceased author, Lucy Grealy. What happens when the person who is your family is someone you aren't bound to by blood? What happens when that person is not your lover, but your best friend? In her frank and startlingly intimate first work of nonfiction, Truth & Beauty, Ann Patchett shines light on the little-explored 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 Writer's Workshop began a friendship that would be as defining to both of their lives as their work. In her critically acclaimed memoir, Autobiography of a Face, Lucy Grealy wrote about the first half of her life. In Truth & Beauty, the story isn't Lucy's life or Ann's life but the parts of their lives they shared together. This is a portrait of unwavering commitment that spans 20 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 is what it means to be part of two lives that are intertwined. This is a tender, brutal book about loving the 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.
The story is interesting, sure. Lucy Grealy had cancer as a child, and as a result, had her jawbone removed and endured many, many reconstructive surgeries. I guess that's what kept me
I don't know how much of this book really was true. I hope that most of it was, because honestly, Lucy Grealy did not come across as a likable person. So either she really was that awful, or Patchett spent an entire book making her best friend sound a whole lot worse than she really was. I hope it's the former. It seemed obvious to me that Lucy had numerous psychological issues; I am not a doctor, but she should have been in therapy at a very, very young age. Her clinginess and neediness were off the charts, and she engaged in self-destructive behavior constantly.
But then you have to ask yourself how anyone could have gone through what Lucy did and not be completely screwed up.
I guess that after reading this book, I feel torn and worn out. I feel so sorry for Lucy because of what she went through, and I feel sorry for the friends that she seemed to have taken advantage of. I'm sorry that her family had to see Lucy's life end the way it did, and that they had to deal with the publication of this book.
And like, seriously though, Lucy seemed REALLY messed up. Like, to a ridiculous degree. She just seemed awful. I was so angry at her during most of the book. As I've said before, I think I should probably just stay away from memoirs.
Both Ann and Lucy ultimately experienced literary success and fame, Ann as the author of several novels and Lucy through her memoir, Autobiography of a Face which now I simply MUST read. Truth and Beauty is Ann’s tribute to their intensely close friendship, and a very moving tribute it is.
Ann's patience for Lucy's dependence and frivolity is admirable; she herself acknowledges that her attachment to Lucy had an addictive quality. But their friendship is also so sweet, and so viscerally true. It is an illustration of the best of friendship and the worst of friendship. That Lucy's life ended so tragically is hardly a surprise and Ann wastes no time on maudlin regrets. She beautifully describes her desire for more time, even a week, with Lucy still in her life, but she refuses to glorify a desperate and terrible ending. If anything, she lets society off just a bit lightly.
This is the first of Patchett's works that I have read. Bel Canto has been on my TBR pile for at least a couple of years and I did give it a weak try just once (I think I read about two pages before setting it aside). This lovely memoir motivates me to give her fiction a try.
I read the book in a day and a half. I'm usually a fast reader, but I was so caught up in the story of this unique and obsessive relationship, that I found it hard to put the book down. I did think it was an excellent book, but it's one that I'd recommend cautiously as Lucy and Ann's story is often a painful one.
And therein lies the main problem --
I do realize that she was probably trying to avoid the standard "triumph of the human spirit" biography -- indeed, Ann and Lucy had a running joke about the various attempts people would make to turn Lucy into that kind of lesson. But somehow going too far in the other direction was even worse, for me, anyway.
Obviously Patchett cared deeply about Lucy and had reasons for writing about her life the way she did. And not being on the inside, so to speak, I really don't have anything to say about whether this story should have been written or not. But as a reader, a looker-on, I can say that I do wish I had been able to leave Lucy some respectful privacy. Had I known how deeply private this story was, I'd not have chosen to read it.
"I could write a whole book about you," I said, and laughed.
There were so many things in this book I felt like I could relate to - for example being the one who is the ant to a friend's grasshopper. She also describes the feeling of that lull between being a success at school and being a success in the "real world" where you're wondering if you'll ever get to that place where you're a successful somebody. All in all, this was a fine read, I was completely caught up in the story of Ann and Lucy's friendship, and Ann's love for Lucy permeates the story...it's an honest tribute to their friendship that encompasses both its good and bad moments. Patchett shows us that friendship can be messy and can easily fall apart, but love is the glue that holds it all together.
Pleasant, not very deep.