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Truth and Beauty: A Friendship (2004)

by Ann Patchett

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2,673995,360 (3.93)129
Biography & Autobiography. Family & Relationships. Nonfiction. HTML:

"A loving testament to the work and reward of the best friendships, the kind where your arms can't distinguish burden from embrace." â?? People

New York Times Bestselling author Ann Patchett's first work of nonfiction chronicling her decades-long friendship with the critically acclaimed and recently deceased author, Lucy Grealy.

Ann Patchett and the late 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 Gealy's critically acclaimed and hugely successful memoir, Autobiography of a Face, she wrote about losing part of her jaw to childhood cancer, years of chemotherapy and radiation, and 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 together. 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 is what it means to be part of two lives that are intertwined...and what happens when one is left behind.

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

  1. 30
    Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy (joaldo)
    joaldo: I recommend reading Autobiography of a Face first, then Truth and Beauty. Autobiography of a Face should be enjoyed for what it is, without being in some way 'tainted' by the harsher view of Lucy's friend, Ann Patchett. Reading Ann's book next will then give the reader a completely different perspective on the poet herself, her work, and on their friendship.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 98 (next | show all)
After reading [b:Autobiography of a Face|534255|Autobiography of a Face|Lucy Grealy|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1386921470l/534255._SY75_.jpg|95778] last year, and learning about this book, I knew I had to read it. Patchett writes about her friendship with fellow writer Lucy Grealy.

In her autobiography, Grealy gives us an edited look at her life, naturally; she chose not to disclose much that Patchett shares in this book.

There's quite a lot about sex included, unfortunately; there's an abortion and liberal attitudes about it; there are major themes of deep depression and suicide; Grealy abuses drugs and alcohol.

As a Christian, it was painful to see how much emotional pain Grealy, especially, was in, and how she refused to even believe in God - the only One with the power to deliver her from her pain. But also, it was sad to know that others in the book, the author included, are just as lost spiritually, though on the outside they may seem more composed.

I really enjoyed hearing about the writing life, from college to fellowships and book deals.

I definitely recommend that others read [b:Autobiography of a Face|534255|Autobiography of a Face|Lucy Grealy|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1386921470l/534255._SY75_.jpg|95778] first, as it starts with an earlier time period and, I think, gives some critical background information. ( )
  RachelRachelRachel | Nov 21, 2023 |
I read Ann Patchett's Bel Canto probably a decade ago at this point, and it remains one of my favorite books of all time—so long as I don't think about it too much. On the one hand, it's beautifully written, genuinely touching, etc etc; on the other hand, it's a poorly (and borderline offensively) fictionalized reimagining of true events. It's the kind of book that you can really only enjoy if you're ignorant of what its about (cough cough The Sparrow, anyone?), and I came out of it feeling like Patchett is both very talented and kind of tacky.
And, reader, that feeling persists!
Ostensibly, Truth and Beauty is Patchett's memoir reflecting on her relationship with fellow author Lucy Grealy, who died not long before this book's publication. But it really isn't so much about their friendship so much as it is about Grealy herself: her constant surgeries, her complicated and slightly embarrassing sex life, her struggles with addiction. Patchett fades, somewhat passive aggressively, into the background. There are brief suggestions that, despite her adulation of Grealy, there was some degree of poorly sublimated anger there, as well—a moment when Patchett cries or nearly cries in frustration, after Grealy dismisses her struggles to get published; another where Grealy is extremely pleased that Patchett's romantic relationship has collapsed. And a third, not detailed in the book itself but in an essay by Grealy's sister, where Grealy discards an advanced copy of Patchett's latest novel, unopened and unread. But despite it all Patchett maintains this sort of soap opera image of Grealy as the sickest, specialest girl in the world and herself an absolute nobody, valuable only for infinite and noble patience in the midst of genius.
It feels just a little bit pathetic, like watching a kicked puppy roll over to be pet, except its not a kicked puppy but in fact a remarkably talented writer. But I guess dignity doesn't score points in the memoir game. ( )
  maddietherobot | Oct 21, 2023 |
Longing for such a love, a friendship that grows and endures -- that's what I'm left with on closing this book. Patchett generously reveals her heart and recalls the building of her history with Lucy Grealy. Her observation, honesty, and loyalty left me thoroughly envious. I'm about the same age as these two women, but I have yet to crack the code that creates this kind of friendship, fluency and understanding, such that when I'm with a friend I feel that "I am a native speaker". ( )
  rebwaring | Aug 14, 2023 |
Mentioned in “A Month of Sundays” “ … she wrote it very soon after Lucy Grealy died. I preferred Helen Garner’s book on such support.
  BJMacauley | Aug 13, 2023 |
Ann Patchett’s memoir Truth and Beauty tells the story of her codependent relationship with the charismatic but needy writer Lucy Grealy.

The two women met in college but don’t become close until grad school at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. In Iowa, they became very close—so close that that Lucy thought nothing of throwing herself into Ann’s arms or sitting in her lap. Lucy had lots of friends, and apparently also lots of sex, but a childhood bout with Ewing’s sarcoma and many failed reconstructive surgeries left her feeling unlovable and insecure. Ann was always there for Lucy, shoring up her fragile ego and even scouring New York City shops for apricot nectar very early on a Sunday morning. Ann’s fascination with Lucy is hard to understand, especially since Lucy seemed to give so little in return.

I read this book when it was first published years ago. I found that it did not stand up well to re-reading. There are too many long excerpts from gushy letters Lucy wrote to Ann, and too many poorly-differentiated secondary characters. Still, this book is a intriguing tribute to an uncommon friendship. ( )
  akblanchard | Aug 6, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 98 (next | show all)
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The thing you can count on in life is that Tennessee will always be scorching hot in August.
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We were a pairing out of Aesop's fable, the grasshopper and the ant, the tortoise and the hare. And sure, maybe the ant was warmer in the winter and the tortoise won the race, but everyoe knows that the grasshopper and the hare were infinitely more appealing animals in all their leggy beauty, their music and interesting side trips. (p. 20)
What she wanted was love, and the best way to go looking for it was through sex. (p. 41)
Writing is a job, a talent but it's also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon. (p. 62)
The process of putting the thing you value most in the world out for the assessment of strangers is a confidence-shaking business even in the best of times. (p. 63)
There is no single experience in my life as a writer to match that moment, the blue of the sky and the breeze drifting in form the bay. I had done the thing I had always wanted to do: I had written a book, all the way to the end. (p. 86)
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Biography & Autobiography. Family & Relationships. Nonfiction. HTML:

"A loving testament to the work and reward of the best friendships, the kind where your arms can't distinguish burden from embrace." â?? People

New York Times Bestselling author Ann Patchett's first work of nonfiction chronicling her decades-long friendship with the critically acclaimed and recently deceased author, Lucy Grealy.

Ann Patchett and the late 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 Gealy's critically acclaimed and hugely successful memoir, Autobiography of a Face, she wrote about losing part of her jaw to childhood cancer, years of chemotherapy and radiation, and 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 together. 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 is what it means to be part of two lives that are intertwined...and what happens when one is left behind.

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

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