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Truth and Beauty

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  24,089 Ratings  ·  2,334 Reviews
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 rec ...more
Paperback, 257 pages
Published April 5th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published May 1st 2004)
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The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankThe Glass Castle by Jeannette WallsNight by Elie WieselAngela's Ashes by Frank McCourtEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Best Memoir / Biography / Autobiography
88th out of 3,237 books — 3,683 voters
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankThe Glass Castle by Jeannette WallsI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya AngelouEat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth GilbertPersepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Memoirs by Women
32nd out of 1,604 books — 2,000 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Barbara Mader
Dec 04, 2013 Barbara Mader rated it did not like it  ·  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
Nov 07, 2007 K rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, favorites
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
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
Feb 25, 2010 Lightreads rated it liked it
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
Nov 23, 2015 Connie rated it really liked it
"Truth and Beauty" is a memoir about the close friendship Ann Patchett shared with the writer Lucy Grealy. At the age of nine, Grealy was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma. She went through years of radiation, chemotherapy, and reconstructive surgeries of her lower jaw. But it was still difficult for her to eat, speak, and kiss. Grealy published the successful "Autobiography of a Face" in 1994 about her experiences.

Patchett and Grealy, both graduates of Sarah Lawrence College, became best friends w
Aug 13, 2014 Eve rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, read-2014
Truth and Beauty is an endearing, wonderfully written memoir about the friendship and love between Ann Patchett and her friend, memoirist/poet, Lucy Grealy. Complete opposites, Patchett aptly compares their relationship to Aesop's fable characters: the grasshopper, ant, tortoise and hare.

"What the story didn'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 tortoise, being unin
Feb 10, 2008 Colleen rated it really liked it
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
Oct 24, 2014 Dianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
“Truth and Beauty” is the story of authors Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy’s (“Autobiography of a Face”) friendship, commencing from their college days until Lucy’s death in 2002 at age 39. The title of the book “Truth and Beauty” is taken from a chapter and several references in Lucy’s book.

Lucy Grealy is mercurial, irresponsible, needy, and an immensely talented writer. She is seriously facially disfigured from having half of her jawbone removed due to Ewing’s sarcoma as a child and from numerous
Glenn Sumi
Apr 03, 2015 Glenn Sumi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
A justly acclaimed memoir about the friendship between the novelist Ann Patchett (Bel Canto, State Of Wonder) and the memoirist/poet Lucy Grealy (Autobiography Of A Face).

The two graduated the same year from Sarah Lawrence, but they became close only when they lived together while studying and teaching at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. That friendship continued through their years struggling to publish, win grants and fellowships, on through successes, setbacks, publication, fame and Grealy’s untim
Oct 31, 2007 Charlotte rated it it was ok
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
Dec 27, 2008 Kerfe rated it it was ok
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
Julie Ehlers
Nov 06, 2013 Julie Ehlers rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 19, 2012 Greg rated it really liked it
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
Nov 03, 2013 Sandra rated it liked it

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
Mar 14, 2008 Jill rated it did not like it
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.
Jul 28, 2009 skein rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2-star
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
Sep 22, 2007 Kim rated it liked it
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
May 03, 2015 ☮Karen rated it liked it
Lucy Grealy could be a challenging personality to endure after a while, as depicted here. A victim of cancer as a child, her face was disfigured and needed many years of surgeries to make it into a semblance of normal again. Along the way she met Ann Patchett and a long friendship ensued. Ann's love of Lucy with all her flaws -- her emotional neediness, her lack of responsibility, and her promiscuity, to name a few -- grew through their many years of shared experiences. To me it seemed a very on ...more
Sep 24, 2008 Kellie rated it really liked it
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
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
Halley Sutton
Mar 17, 2015 Halley Sutton rated it it was amazing
There was a time in my life when I would've said that "Bel Canto" was my favorite book. It wasn't an entirely arbitrary choice, because each time I've read that book, starting with the first time when I was fourteen, it's astounded me with it's beauty and sensitivity and also what a helluva plot. If pressed, I often followed that "what's your favorite book" question (which always struck me as something kind of ridiculous-- "Halley, what's the favorite step you've ever taken?" How do I even answe ...more
Kaitlin Jones
Feb 09, 2015 Kaitlin Jones rated it it was amazing
This is the true story of two friends, both authors, one being a favorite of mine, Ann Patchet, and the other Lucy Grealy. I consistently love Patchett's writing, she finds beautiful ways to describe things, so this book was a pleasure for me. It's the story of their friendship, of what it's like to be an author, of the expectation for life when you're an artist, what life will mean, and what meaning will be a part of your life. Lucy almost felt like a character to me, and I don't totally unders ...more
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.

Feb 04, 2013 Judith rated it did not like it
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
May 11, 2008 Kate rated it really liked it
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
Oct 30, 2007 Jhoanna rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 03, 2007 Carla rated it really liked it
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
Nov 15, 2011 Anne rated it it was amazing
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
Kelly Corrigan
Dec 14, 2007 Kelly Corrigan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who has ever had a deep friendship
i had never read ann patchett nor had i ever read a book where the muse was a friend. there's something so rich and unmined about friendship, especially-I think-between women. I loved this. Every page.
Jan 25, 2014 Anne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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¡ POETRY !: SAFE CLEAN WORLD 5 8 Nov 12, 2015 01:53AM  
Grealy's book 10 117 May 16, 2014 04:46AM  
The Rory Gilmore ...: Truth and Beauty - Anne Patchett 4 75 Dec 05, 2013 02:19AM  
Cafe Libri: January: "Truth and Beauty: A Friendship" by Ann Patchett 12 21 Jan 31, 2012 03:12AM  
  • Autobiography of a Face
  • The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age
  • Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos
  • Rescuing Patty Hearst: Growing Up Sane in a Decade Gone Mad
  • A Month of Sundays: Searching for the Spirit and My Sister
  • Sacred Time
  • The Meaning of Consuelo
  • A Quiet Storm
  • Nervous System: Or, Losing My Mind in Literature
  • The Song Reader
  • Quattrocento
  • The Song of Names
  • My Life As Author And Editor
  • My Life in Orange
  • The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life
  • Extravagance
  • An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination
  • Just a Couple of Days
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
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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.” 412 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?” 70 likes
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