Carin's Reviews > Truth and Beauty

Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett
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's review
Jun 16, 2015

really liked it
bookshelves: memoir, women-authors, medical, writing-books
Read from May 15 to 19, 2015

I have known of Ann Patchett for pretty much her entire career as she and I both are native Nashvillians. She now owns the independent bookstore in Nashville, Parnassus Books. In fact, I was there two years ago when she was given the WNBA Award. But I never read one of her books. Until now.

Naturally, given my penchant for memoirs, I started with hers instead of one of her many novels. Ann went to the University of Iowa for her MFA (wow, best program in the country if not the world.) So did Lucy Grealy. They'd gone to college together but didn't know each other then. Ann knew who Lucy was though. Everyone did. When Lucy was a child, she had cancer, which left her with almost no jaw left, so she had a distinctive face. Ann and Lucy became roommates and best friends, and stayed best friends for the next twenty years.

Typically, opposites attract. Ann is steady, methodical, responsible. Lucy is wild, emotional, passionate. Even after graduate school, the talk and write nearly every day. Lucy has a series of surgeries (which never really stopped since she was a pre-teen) to try to fix her jaw, including taking her tibia and having skin grafts and other soft tissue and bone grafts. For a while, those surgeries kept her trapped in Scotland (a UK native, she could get free surgeries there) where she was a prolific letter writer. Meanwhile, aside from a young marriage and quick divorce, Ann, the novelist, is cautious, she writes her designated number of pages every day, and she moves home to Nashville to waitress, because that is the smart move financially. Lucy, a poet, has a series of terrible relationships, gets deep in debt, and moves to New York because it's exciting. She writes when her deadline is on top of her (or past.)

Eventually, they both find success. Ann, with her fourth novel, and Lucy with an essay in a magazine that leads to a memoir. But Lucy is always chasing love. The adulation of fans is great for a while, until it dissipates and she just can't write her contracted-for novel. But her great need for love doesn't fade with her fame. Her constant chase for something new, something better, for a fix for her face, leads her down a bad path. Ann tries to help her, but she can't save her.

The writing is stunning. Lucy's letters in particular have lines of pure brilliance. Ann's talent lies in making us feel empathy and understanding towards a woman who seems like the neediest, most hysterical bipolar person I could ever hope to meet. And yet through Ann's eyes, I see the beauty in Lucy, the excitement, the challenge, the hope in being her friend. I admire Ann for standing by her for all those years, while admitting that I'm not sure if I would have. Ann seems to be a woman of infinite patience. And Lucy was lucky to have had her as a friend. And she was lucky to have had Lucy.

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Quotes Carin Liked

Ann Patchett
“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?”
Ann Patchett, Truth And Beauty

Ann Patchett
“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.”
Ann Patchett, Truth and Beauty

Ann Patchett
“Whenever I saw her, I felt like I had been living in another country, doing moderately well in another language, and then she showed up speaking English and suddenly I could speak with all the complexity and nuance that I hadn't realized was gone. With Lucy I was a native speaker.”
Ann Patchett, Truth and Beauty

Ann Patchett
“The thing you can count on in life is that Tennessee will always be scorching hot in August.”
Ann Patchett, Truth and Beauty

Ann Patchett
“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. But in Lucy's circumstances it was sheer heroism, a real sign of her devotion to her art. She was, in a sense, sitting at a craps table with her last stack of chips, trying again and again to hit it big.”
Ann Patchett, Truth and Beauty

Ann Patchett
“I wrote the last sentence of The Patron Saint of Liars in early April and stumbled out of my apartment and into the beautiful spring feeling panicked and amazed. 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 from the bay. I had done the thing I had always wanted to do: I had written a book, all the way to the end. Even if it proved to be terrible, it was mine.”
Ann Patchett, Truth and Beauty

Reading Progress

05/15/2015 marked as: currently-reading
05/19/2015 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Becky (new)

Becky Zagor Glad you enjoy her! I really enjoyed Bel Canto as well,Carin!

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