Truth & Beauty: A Friendship
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Truth & Beauty: A Friendship

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  19,145 ratings  ·  1,947 reviews
For use in schools and libraries only. The author describes her 20-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.
Hardcover, 257 pages
Published April 1st 2005 by Turtleback Books (first published May 1st 2004)
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Barbara Mader
Dec 04, 2013 Barbara Mader rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
I didn't care for it, for several reasons. First of all, I didn't think much of the quality of the writing--certainly nothing like Lucy Grealy's in her own memoir. Second, I found both women's behavior in the friendship really strange. Ann seems completely blank in the relationship, never asserting any real personality, and completely enabling Lucy's neediness and selfishness. Lucy just sounded like a black hole, sucking up every bit of attention, affection, needing more and more extravagant dec...more
Diane
This is a beautiful memoir of a friendship between two writers, Ann Patchett and the poet Lucy Grealy. I read this back in 2006, and it's still one of my favorite books about the nature of friendship and the bonds that we form with others.

Ann met Lucy in college, and later they both attended the Iowa Writer's Workshop. As a child, Lucy had suffered cancer of the jaw and her face was disfigured during numerous reconstruction surgeries. Lucy wrote the memoir "Autobiography of a Face" about her exp...more
K
Wow -- what a fascinating experience, to read "Truth and Beauty" after "Autobiography of a Face" and then to follow up with Suellen Grealy's angry article. I actually thought "Truth and Beauty" was the better book of the two, although perhaps it's not fair to say that because much of my fascination with "Truth and Beauty," at least initially, stemmed from having read "Autobiography of a Face" and the unique, stimulating opportunity to read one person's memoir and then to read how that person was...more
Colleen
I picked up this book because I read "Bel Canto" and loved it, and loved Ann Patchett's writing style. I also think that, in general, friendship does not get enough respect in our society. There's a lot of attention payed to family and lovers, but not much to friends.
This is the story of a friendship between the author and a woman she went to college with. They both end up at the University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop at the same time, and a beautiful, life-long friendship ensues. I loved the b...more
Lightreads
Okay, I'm gonna come out and say something earnest here, in a short break from the usual foul-mouthed cynicism. I think books ought to have courage; I think memoirs, out of all books, must have courage. And this one doesn't.

This is supposed to be the story of a twenty-year friendship between two women writers, but in reality this is just a book about Lucy Grealy, the girl who lost most of her face to cancer, the eventual darling of the New York literary scene, the heroin addict. The cowardice st...more
Kerfe
Addicts are not very likable. At best I found Lucy Grealy tiresome. That was at the beginning of Patchett's memoir about their friendship. By the end my feelings for Lucy had turned into active dislike.

I don't think this was the author's intent. When Lucy dies, she says: "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." But she never made me see why this should be. Why was she so devoted to Lucy, w...more
Charlotte
I learned how not to treat friends.

I couldn't believe that Ann didn't end her friendship with Lucy after so many irritating incidents on Lucy's part. I would have backed out of sharing an apartment with Lucy if she had jumped up on me when I first arrived at the apartment.

When Lucy demanded that Ann tell her that she (Ann) loved her most, why did Ann cater to her wishes?

The author did not explain to my satisfaction why Lucy continued to have friends. Apparently Lucy must have had some sort...more
Julie Ehlers
Oh, my experience rereading this book was so different from my first reading ten years ago. Back then, I don't think I'd read any Ann Patchett yet--I'd read Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face and wanted to know more about her and how she died. Even though Ann was doing the telling, I saw this as Lucy's story.

Fast forward ten years: I've now read and loved three of Ann Patchett's novels and a fair amount of her nonfiction pieces. I'm a fan. Rereading Truth and Beauty, I'm much more interested...more
Kim
Sep 22, 2007 Kim rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ann Patchett fans
I have just read two books about female friendship back to back--one was the annotated letters of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok and the other was this one, novelist Ann Patchett's memoir of her all-encompassing and troubled friendship with poet Lucy Grealy, who is insecure, needy, and self-destructive, but also incredibly gifted. It is no spoiler to say that Lucy dies at the end, which is given away on the dust jacket and dedication page.

Both books were similar in that one party to the fr...more
Kellie
This was an incredible book about friendship. Lucy Grealy had cancer when she was young, which resulted in several surgeries to remove parts of her jaw. These surgeries left her with a deformed face. Ann met Lucy in her early 20’s. She immediately befriended Lucy and “felt chosen by Lucy and was thrilled.” Lucy had a lot of friends. But it never seemed to be enough. Ann beautifully describes her friend in these words, …”Lucy’s loneliness was breathtaking in its enormity. If she emptied out Grand...more
Sandra
SPOILER ALERT!

So this is really more like a 2.5 star read, but interesting in a train-wreck kind of way. This is the true story of Patchett's friendship and fascination with fellow author Lucy Grealy from college through Grealy's suicide in her late 30s. Grealy suffered from Ewing's sarcoma which claimed a part of her face in childhood and then she permitted it to take her self-respect and the rest of her life. Grealy told her own story in "Autobiography of a Face", and the story should have pro...more
Greg
It's a little confusing to separate all the various emotions and viewpoints associated with Truth and Beuaty because of the agita caused by the Grealey family's dissatisfaction with the book and Suellen Grealey's letter to the Guardian. The "controversy" stems from ideas of ethics and rights. Who owns the rights to Lucy's story? Is it ethical for Ann Patchett to use Lucy to tell her own story? I see both sides although I fall on Patchett's side. Reading Beauty, I could see how her family didn't...more
skein
It's never really clear if Lucy Grealy was as much of a gigantic, useless asshole as Patchett's episodic descriptions inadvertently make her out to be. What is clear, abundantly clear, beat-you-over-the-head-with-it clear, is that Patchett needed Grealy more than anything - at least for a few years.
And then the friendship sizzled out.
And then Lucy overdosed (heroin) and died.
And this is Patchett's homage to the friend she finally betrayed - through growing up - through just needing her own, s...more
Judith
Having recently read "State of Wonder" and "Bel Canto", I became an overnight devoted fan of Ann Patchett. And how was I to know that the memoir of her dear friend and fellow author would be just about unreadable? The book describes this intense (passionate, though platonic) friendship with a female poet she met in college. The friend, Lucy, was a pitiful victim of cancer which left her without the lower half of her face. She underwent over 38 surgeries during her lifetime to try to rebuild her...more
Kate
The friendship of Lucy Grealy and Ann Patchett was extraordinary and excruciating. I’ve had some remarkable friendships in my life, but this book forced serious introspection. I identify with Ann, and wonder: could I love someone as broken or needy as Lucy? Would I have the courage to stand up to a self-destructing friend? Do I have the fortitude to stick by a friend through gruesome surgeries/recoveries? Or maybe I am more of Lucy--searching for Perfect Love, drawing others in for my own amusem...more
Kang
Couldn't get into this book because there was no real character development. The book is not so much a narrative as a portrait, a portrait both of Lucy Grealy and of the friendship between Ann Patchett and Grealy. But Lucy at the end of the book is pretty much Lucy at the beginning of the book--with more success and a drug addiction. And Ann doesn't really change either, though she arguably matures and is more comfortable in her own skin by the end. The friendship, to be sure, undergoes some sli...more
Jhoanna
I didn't know much about Patchett or Grealy before reading this memoir and I still don't, but I love how Patchett details this intense friendship between two writers and gives you a close look at the writing process, how people develop and why we keep writing. Here's what Patchett has to say of Grealy:

"What the story doesn't tell you is that the ant relented at the eleventh hour and took in the grasshopper when the weather was hard, fed him on his tenderest store of grass all winter. The tortois...more
Carla
Oct 03, 2007 Carla rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: girlfriends
My best friend Audrey gave me this book at the same time she gave me the book "Autobiography of a face". What a great present. I would read them in the order they are written (autobiography) first. The first book is just an interesting story which is well written. I really liked this book b/c it was mostly about the power of friendship. We all know the power of a good relationship with a significant other but rarely is the power of a female friendship written about. I can relate to this book (in...more
Anne
I relished this book- not only for the beautiful writing but for the sentiment, the love between two best friends. I didn't want this book to end, though I had a sad feeling about how it would end. I now have Autobiography of a Face on my bedside table, but am somewhat reluctant to begin reading it, maybe because I feel like I liked Ann Patchett's side of the story and the way that she told Lucy Grealy's story better than I could like Lucy Grealy's way of describing her own life. I'll give it a...more
Anne
This is author Ann Patchett's memoir of her friendship with poet/memorist Lucy Grealy. I've read it twice now, once before reading Lucy's memoir and once afterwards, and both times I found it a curious and unsettling book – well written, beautifully observed, somehow distancing. With both readings I felt that no matter how often Patchett declared Lucy's magnetism and charm, it never came alive for me, but I also found this understandable – the elusive charm of certain people can only be experien...more
Jill
Awful. Both obsequious and patronizing. Touted as a memoir of friendship. But, sweet Mary, I would not want either of the women as my friend.
Lisa
After This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, I wanted to read this. The chapter which detailed how Clemson University campaigned against the book and its author because of its frankness about sex had me curious to see what all the fuss was about.

In this portrait of the friendship between Patchett and Lucy Grealy, yes, Lucy had a robust sex life, but that's not the focus. It's about Lucy, a bundle of contradictions, both likable and unlikable, and not an easy friend to have.

I do wish Patchett h...more
Lise
I had never heard of Lucy Grealy. Should I have? State of Wonder was one of my favourite reads this year, and I really liked Bel Canto. This memoir is well written, but Lucy is so unlikeable that I think I kept reading waiting for the time when Ann was going to finally tell her to get lost. Ann tells us repeatedly how charismatic Lucy was and how much people loved her, but I just couldn't get it. An example, Lucy wasn't getting enough attention at a dinner so she SAT IN ANN's lap and then procee...more
Jennifer D
Ann Patchett has written an amazingly candid memoir of her intense and complicated, frustrating but rewarding friendship with Lucy Grealy, the celebrated author of Autobiography of a Face. The two women knew each other vaguely as undergraduates at Sarah Lawrence, became instant “best friends” as graduate students at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and, up until Lucy’s death of a drug overdose in 2002, were intricately, perhaps even obsessively, involved in each other’s personal and professional lives...more
Rebecca
Ann Pratchett has a beautiful way with tragedy.

Her novels are lovely and evocative; here, she trains that same lyricism on the greatest tragedy of her own life, the death of her best friend. Bereft of her family and having lost her lower jaw to a childhood cancer, Lucy is brilliant, shockingly charismatic, and stunningly needy. She's a poet who becomes famous instead for her memoir, a beloved friend who's popular wherever she goes and cannot fill an aching loneliness. Pratchett's account of th...more
Barb
This is was a recent book club selection. I had a difficult time forcing myself to read it at first.

I wrote harsh notes as I was reading. I didn't think the writing was good at all. I didn't care for Lucy Grealy and Ann Patchett seemed like a bit of a doormat. I was annoyed by the fact that there was little or no character development. I know it's a memoir, but I had a difficult time connecting with the two women in the story because Patchett didn't offer much insight into their character.

But...more
Ruth Seeley
So this was Ann Patchett's third strike and this reader declares her banned from the game in perpetuity. Certainly better than State of Wonder and Bel Canto (I don't care how many awards that book won, it's bad!) and I've wasted enough time trying to figure out what people see in her as a writer.

Easy to see what Lucy Grealy saw in her as a friend, though - an eager co-dependent. While the fact that this is not a novel helps Patchett on the plotting front significantly (no more crazy and unbeliev...more
Beth
Ann Patchett, award-winning author of four well known novels wrote this memoir, her first published work of nonfiction, as a deeply personal snapshot into the depths of women's friendships. Ann and her best friend, Lucy Grealy, initially met in 1981 at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. They had much in common: huge talents for and interests in writing, becoming integral parts of the community of published authors, recipients of awards, assignments to University teaching posts, etc. However, their temp...more
Claire McNeill
I find it troubling to downgrade the rating of a memoir because I don't absolutely love its characters, but in this case the memoir *is* the character and thus hard to overlook. Truth & Beauty concerns itself singularly with the intensely felt life of Lucy Grealy, with Ann Patchett, her devoted friend, as the chronicler. A few thoughts:
1. Lucy Grealy was a force. She lived every day bursting at the seams, brimming with deep and loud emotion, whether it was joy or need or lust or depression o...more
Angela
I'm not sure how I feel about this memoir. It's definitely well-written and compelling, and I cared about Lucy and Ann and their friendship. But I'm conflicted about the nature of this book, too. Although Patchett is certainly allowed to write a memoir about a friend who has recently died, I was surprised how often I found myself getting uncomfortable, how often I wondered what Lucy herself would think of Patchett's characterization. This memoir came so soon after Lucy's death (perhaps too soon?...more
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Grealy's book 10 107 May 15, 2014 12:46PM  
The Rory Gilmore ...: Truth and Beauty - Anne Patchett 4 70 Dec 04, 2013 09:19AM  
Cafe Libri: January: "Truth and Beauty: A Friendship" by Ann Patchett 12 20 Jan 30, 2012 10:12AM  
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Patchett was born in Los Angeles, California. Her mother is the novelist Jeanne Ray.

She moved to Nashville, Tennessee when she was six, where she continues to live. Patchett said she loves her home in Nashville with her doctor husband and dog. If asked if she could go any place, that place would always be home. "Home is ...the stable window that opens out into the imagination."

Patchett attended hi...more
More about Ann Patchett...
Bel Canto State of Wonder Run The Magician's Assistant Patron Saint of Liars

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“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.” 325 likes
“I was starting to wonder if I was ready to be a writer, not someone who won prizes, got published and was given the time and space to work, but someone who wrote as a course of life. Maybe writing wouldn't have any rewards. Maybe the salvation I would gain through work would only be emotional and intellectual. Wouldn't that be enough, to be a waitress who found an hour or two hidden in every day to write?” 60 likes
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