Bridget's Reviews > Truth and Beauty

Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett
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I read Lucy Grealy's autobiography last fall, and wanted to read this because it was the story of Lucy Grealy and Ann Patchett's friendship. I wondered how Lucy was seen by those outside of her family.

Lucy and Ann both attended Sarah Lawrence College, where Ann knew who Lucy was, but was never sure that Lucy knew who she was. Then, when they are both admitted to the Iowa Writers Workshop, Lucy asks her to find an apartment when she goes out to find her own place to live. Ann is only able to find an apartment in a house, not a magnificent place, but a place they can afford if they become roommates. On their first meeting there, Lucy reacts as if Ann is her best friend in the universe, and for the rest of Lucy's life, they are the closest of friends.

I didn't like this book as much as I expected to, mostly because I didn't really end up liking Lucy that much. Which is not to deny her situation, and her grit in pushing through and trying to do what she wanted to do in her life. But rather than come across to me as a likable person, she seemed extremely manipulative. Having said that, a person can only succeed at being manipulative if those being manipulative let it happen, and Ann definitely did. Ann admits that Lucy was difficult, self-centered, and as frustrating as she was all the things that made Ann love her, but I kept wishing that it was not such a one-sided relationship. Ann seemed to love Lucy as a friend, but also kind of worship her. I realize that saying this about a person like Lucy Grealy is like saying that Jesus was probably an ugly baby, but I don't think I would have been able to be friends with her.

I think Lucy and Ann were lucky to have each other, but I also think they were in a lot of ways each other's worse enemy. I have read some articles saying that Lucy's surviving family members were upset with this book, and I can understand that, as Lucy comes across as a needy, often whiny, even pushy person who is not happy unless the world is paying attention to her. And in her autobiography, she makes it clear that by being the most special case, that's when she is happiest. But of course each party is viewing Lucy from their own standpoint. It is odd that in this book, there is never mention of Lucy's siblings having any contact with her, or she with them. Ann's family more or less becomes her family. Which makes a certain sense, since it's Ann's version of things.

Like everything in the world, there are probably 20 versions of Lucy's story, depending who is telling it. It is clear that she was a very smart, constantly inquisitive person, with a lot of talent in her writing. And it is clear that Ann Patchett's life as an adult was framed by her friendship with Lucy Grealy.

I liked this book well enough to want to read the whole thing, but I don't think it's anything I'll ever consider reading again.

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Reading Progress

September 29, 2012 – Shelved
Started Reading
April 1, 2013 – Finished Reading
April 14, 2013 – Shelved as: 2013-reads

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