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Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett

Truth & Beauty: A Friendship (2004)

by Ann Patchett

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2,234824,273 (3.94)112
  1. 20
    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)
  2. 02
    The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: An interesting memoir about an unconventional, unequal friendship.

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How much of an author's intention should be factored into your enjoyment/valuation of a book? How can you determine the author's intention? Is it via the blurb? Or is that just a marketing thing that the author has no control over?

This book has me mulling a lot over the above, because depending on the answer, this is either one of the best books I've ever read, or the worst. On one hand, what an awful book that seems to be an underhanded way of undercutting your allegedly best friend's life. And on the other hand, perhaps as a metatext, what an incredible insight to an exhausting and unhealthy (masking as supportive) relationship.

A nonfiction based on the friendship between writer Ann Patchett and poet Lucy Grealy since college/grad school, its blurb touts it as a record of this beautiful dedicated female friendship. And on the surface, perhaps, yet between the lines there's so much anger (potentially residual grief seeing as how soon this book was published after Grealy's passing), so much dysfunction, and enabling, and self-martyring in this dependent love-hate relationship.

Aside: The title and the level of dysfunction in their relationship remind me of The Secret History with cliquey-Grealy and Richard-Patchett, a passive enabler with a complex to help and be needed, charmed by the charismatic cult of personality of the clique.

Further reading: this Guardian article by Suellen, Grealy's sister, on the impact of this book on Grealy's family. ( )
  kitzyl | Dec 12, 2018 |
I first learned about the friendship of Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy, in Patchett's excellent essay collection, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, so I knew I wanted to read the full story in this moving and unflinching memoir.
Ann and Lucy met in college. Lucy had a bout of childhood cancer, leaving her with a serious facial disfigurement, that wasted away her lower jaw. She ended up having nearly 40 surgeries, up until her premature death at age 39. Lucy dealt with self-esteem issues her entire life, which led her to substance abuse problems and suicidal tendencies.
This is the story of their unique friendship, which had plenty of bumps along the way, as Ann tried to help Lucy deal with her multitude of issues. The prose is strong, all along the way, with a staunch sense of honesty, that is sometimes hard to bear. Now, I want to read, Autobiography of a Face, which is Lucy's own story. Highly recommended. ( )
  msf59 | Oct 15, 2017 |
Ann Patchett met Lucy Grealy in college, but their friendship blossomed during graduate school at the Iowa Writers Workshop. The two complemented one another: Lucy was a free spirit, Ann was organized and practical. But Lucy’s life was complicated by childhood cancer which left her with virtually no jaw, and all of the self-esteem issues that can arise from looking different. As an adult, Lucy had several reconstructive surgeries, but none were successful. The two women supported each other as they encountered personal and professional challenges; Ann was always quick to hop on a plane to New York to visit Lucy any time she was needed, and especially after surgery. Lucy died young (not a spoiler, it’s evident in the dedication), but she left an impact on everyone who knew her.

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. ( )
2 vote lauralkeet | Sep 1, 2017 |
Whether "Truth & Beauty," Ann Patchett's memoir of her friendship with Lucy Grealy, another writer, makes her look like a saint or a fool readers must decide for themselves. But then saints often look like fools, and fools, if you watch the movie "Being There," sometimes look like saints.

Patchett and Grealy went to college together but didn't actually become friends until they both showed up at the Iowa Writers Workshop in 1985, Patchett an aspiring novelist, Grealy an aspiring poet. They ended up sharing an apartment together and becoming devoted friends. The friendship continued for nearly two decades, even after Patchett settled in Nashville and Grealy, an Ireland native, moved to New York City.

Yet it was never an equal friendship. From the beginning Patchett was the giver and Grealy the taker.

Grealy, who died from a drug overdose at the age of 39, underwent nearly 40 operations in her short life because of a facial disfigurement caused by cancer of the jaw. Even though her vibrant personality resulted in more friends and lovers than most other women could imagine, she became dependent upon Patchett to reassure her constantly that, yes, she was loved and, however her ever-changing face happened to look at the moment, she would have sex again.

At one time Grealy was the more famous of the pair. "I was famous for being with her," Patchett writes. Her friend wrote a fictionalized memoir called "Autobiography of a Face," which became a best seller and led to television interviews in which she wowed audiences. But then, despite a handsome book contract, she could write nothing, while Patchett began turning out one novel after another, beginning with "The Patron Saint of Liars."

Never able to manage money, nor anything else, Grealy gave no thought to paying her mounting medical bills, and she would just move to another apartment whenever her landlord became too demanding. Patchett, or some other friend, was always there to help her out and take care of her after those frequent surgeries. At one point Patchett even offered to write her novel for her.

Eventually Grealy became addicted to painkillers, then resorted to harder drugs, all the while insisting she was not an addict. She died in 2002, and Patchett's book came out in 2004.

I vote for saint. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Aug 4, 2017 |
This memoir is a great testament to true friendship. Being a true friend is not always easy, but we do it because of the deep love we have for that person. Ann and Lucy's relationship was filled with love through some truly tumultuous times and events. We all want to be able to save the ones we love, but sometimes they can not be saved or may not want to be saved. I will suggest this book to many. A perfect book for book clubs. ( )
  bnbookgirl | Jan 21, 2017 |
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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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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060572159, Paperback)

Ann Patchett and the late 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. In Grealy’s critically acclaimed 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. This is a portrait of unwavering commitment that spans twenty years, from the long 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 lifted up by the sheer effervescence of someone who knew how to live life to the fullest.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:41 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The author describes her twenty-year friendship with Lucy Grealy, tracing their introduction at a writer's workshop, the integral part their friendship played in their writing careers, and her witness to Grealy's medical deterioration.

» see all 8 descriptions

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