Truth & Beauty: A Friendship

By: Ann Patchett
Nonfiction
2004
Subject Matter: Lucy Grealy; Ewing’s sarcoma; Patients; United States; Biography; Disfigured persons; Ann Patchett; Friends and associates; Female friendship
Rating: 3.5/5

Truth & Beauty

Eek.

I am not quite sure where to go with Truth & Beauty.

If you’ve never heard of Ann Patchett, she typically writes romance-ish fiction books about young-ish girls. Think Bel Canto and The Patron Saint of Liars. And looking at the cover of this book (and the horrible title…) you might think this is another one of those.

You’d be wrong. This book is about Patchett’s friendship with the late great Lucy Grealy. As a child, Grealy had cancer in her jaw that caused a lifetime of disfigurement and low self-esteem. You can read about that firsthand in Grealy’s autobiography, a fascinating book called Autobiography of a Face.

As different as Grealy and Patchett’s literature may be, they were fast friends. And that’s what this book is about, what it was like to know and love and eventually lose Lucy Grealy. Grealy died at the age of 39.

It’s pretty good. It’s interesting. And it’s obviously an ode to someone very beloved. But it very much should not be taken as a biography of Grealy. It’s a memoir of a friendship. There are huge Ann-less chunks of Grealy’s life that are not included.

The neatest part is seeing the “artist at work” so to say. I recently read Patchett’s The Patron Saint of Liars, so it was fun to see when and where that came up in her life and what her personal context was. Ditto with Autobiography of a Face.

But – not to speak ill of the dead – Grealy is hella annoying in this book. Either Ann Patchett is a better friend than me, or her memories of Grealy are a little exaggerated, because I wouldn’t have been able to handle her. Especially towards the end, this book starts to read as a broken record: “Ann, do you love me?” “Of course I do.” “Am I your favorite?” “You are my favorite, pet.” Ad nauseam.

It’s exhausting. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to live in a world where that was your everyday conversation, but I certainly don’t want to read it on repeat.

So I dunno. This one kind of lost me.

 

*****

 

Suggestions:

(for books mentioned in this one)

King Lear by William Shakespeare

The Iliad by Homer

Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

(for more by Patchett)

Run by Ann Patchett

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Taft by Ann Patchett

The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett

(for works by Grealy)

Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

As Seen on TV by Lucy Grealy

 

Coming up:

Rejected Princesses by Jason Porath

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