You must read Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face first, to appreciate this book in its entirety. The friendship between Ann and Lucy was bizarre - unlike any friendship between women I have ever known. They were *extremely* close - and Lucy was pretty much obesessed with Ann, addicted to her approval and friendship, and that of others. It's a tragic story, one which, in reflection, could not have ended any other way. It left me a bit drained, and stayed with me for a long time.
Patchett writes so beautifully that somehow it doesn't matter that this memoir of her friendship with writer and cancer survivor, Lucy Grealy, is often depressing and frustrating when Lucy's neediness and overwhelming insecurity dictates both their lives; however the love the two women have for each other shines thru all the heartache.
This was o.k., interesting, funny at times, but not really what I expected. I kept waiting for it to get a little better. It seemed ver much like the friendship between the two writers was one-sided, with Lucy being completely selfish and self-absorbed, and Ann having a saintly patience. I didn't really like Patchett's Bel Canto, so perhaps it as just her prose style that left me wanting.
I read this after "Autobiography of a Face" and probably appreciated the insight into Lucy Grealy more for it. I am the same age as Lucy and Ann, so the shared history of their friendship over the years, college, graduate school, love and loss, resonated deeply with me.
This book surprised me. For about the first third of the book, I was vaguely irritated and thought I was going to hate it. Then, as I got deeper in, I realized the whole tone of the book was different than any other memoir I have read. I devoured the last half or so in one day.
It's not your typical "she was my friend and now I'm writing about our friendship" book. It's really quite honest. It can be critical, cranky, and surprising - much like a real friendship. There are the highest highs and the lowest lows. There are times you want to scream at Ann and Lucy, times you're kinda sick of them, times you're rooting for them with all your heart. In short, it's like spending time with real people, warts and all. And Ann Patchett really does let us see them as real.
I recommend this book. It's a fairly quick read, but you feel like you spent time in the world of 2 real people worth knowing.
The famous novelist Ann Patchett writes nonfiction about her friendship with the famous poet/memoirist Lucy Grealy. Beautifully written, though I think Patchett was sometimes too easy on her friend.
"Even when Lucy was devastated or difficult, she was the person I knew best in the world, the person I was the most comfortable with. 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 even realized was gone. With Lucy I was a native speaker."
I found it hard to put this one down. I have several friends that I have been close with since 3rd grade but I'm not sure I could have been the loyal friend that Ms. Patchett was to Lucy Grealy. I look forward to reading Ms. Grealy's account of her hardships and the friendship between the two writers.
May be I am a very practicle person to have a long friendship like this one where one person is so dependent on another and yet the friendship coninues for years. I just had a hard time understanding why the friendship continues after so many mentions of what sound like complains about organizational skills and decipline of Author's friend.
If I did have a friendship like this, I would have had a very hard time writing in such great details the flaws of my best friend.
Even though the book is a great read, and made me think a lot about my friendships, I always felt like I was incapable of fully comprehending this friendship. I would recommend it to any woman with a circle of friends around her.
I've been reading Ann Patchett's books lately. Although this book made me weep, and was intense reading, I can recommend it highly. The author describes a friendship she had with a poet she met in college. They were very close and supported each other through thick and thin. The poet had various health issuss... Ann Patchett is a FRIEND to have in touch situations.
Ann Patchetts Truth and Beauty is a memoir of her friendship with fellow-author Lucy Grealy and it has lots of detail about Grealys medical issues and problems. As a huge Patchett fan I really didnt know what to expect because Lucys sister & family accused Patchett of using facts from their relationship to slander and demean and minimize her accomplishments. I dont think they deny though, that Lucy was a rather peculiar person and may have traded on her childhood cancer experiences and her damaged physique to manipulate others. It felt honest in spots, in others less so. When Patchett describes her needy & dramatic friend actually climbing onto her lap (sober no less) and demanding to know if Ann loved her in public I had to catch my breath. Perhaps some skepticism about female friendships spoiled my appreciation and kept me from appreciating some of the wonderment of their friendship through 20 yrs. Certainly I considered the authors mothers advice to save all Lucys letters in case Lucy becomes more famous as a writer. Maybe I got caught up in the way every sentence Patchett writes is so beautifully tuned that it sounds profound even if its just straight narrative. Anyway, it didnt ring as true as the rest of her books thus far & I finished not knowing if Id enjoyed it or not.
Truth & Beauty is an unusual memoir. It's about the experiences of two people: the author and her best friend, poet/writer Lucy Grealy while they are struggling to become published writers and teachers, and the decline in their relationship after achieving their career goals and Lucy becomes a heroine addict.
Lucy lost most of her lower jaw and teeth from chemotherapy and radiation after being diagnosed with a rare cancer when she was an adolescent. We read about many of her reconstructive surgeries, those with positive results, perhaps not long-lasting, others total failures. I could understand their complicated relationship somewhat. Lucy's social development was far from normal and Ann was an unconditionally accepting friend, Lucy's go-to person for emotional and often financial support.
The book cover illustration of the grasshopper and the ant reflect the theme that dominates the book. Lucy often took unexpected flights whether it was to have an affair or for health reasons. Ann, like an ant was the plodding, hard worker, the never-failing responsible friend.
There is controversy about whether or not Grealy would have wanted Patchett to write a book about her life with such intimate details. (The book was written after Grealy's death). Grealy reveals her own experiences in her best-selling book, Autobiography of a Face.
It was nice to read this just a few books after My Brilliant Friend, so I could compare the two.
Patchett was so loving and tender in her descriptions of her friend Lucy Grealy, and she made it more than clear why she found Grealy lovable. I believed her, but I also know that a huge personality like Grealy's can be difficult to endure for a long period of time, and Patchett strikes me as the type of person who needs a long dose of calm and quiet every now and then. Wouldn't she struggle with Grealy's emotional excesses? Wouldn't there be times when she just lost her patience?
The inner conflict of close relationships is completely missing from this memoir. It's possibly that Patchett never minded being in this lopsided friendship, where Grealy gushes and takes and Patchett just gives. Grealy may really have been so charming that Patchett never tired of her. But even if she had nothing but love for Grealy, that dynamic always has a dark side: surely Grealy's overbright personality would have made the (still outstanding!) Patchett feel dull and boring by comparison. What kind of effect does that have on Patchett's view of herself, her personality, or her own writing? Does she love being around Grealy, but kind of hate herself a bit afterwards? Does Grealy inspire her to be greater, but also erode her confidence that she ever can be?
But if you want to hear about any of that, you have to read My Brilliant Friend. To be fair, I only made it about 60% through this book (on my second attempt), and it might get more fraught towards the end. Maybe Patchett gets more honest, or draws healthy boundaries, or just starts to see Grealy more realistically. There was no hint of that in the first part, so I set this book down and won't pick it up again.
The highly rated reviews this book received (as is listed in the intro pages) is well deserved. Nicely written, I am glad I read Lucy's book Autobiography of a face first, so I knew her story & what she went through. She does come off as child-like in her insecurity & neediness, I found it a bit unbelievable that Ann & Lucy's other friends never ditched her in her desperation for validation. A person can only do so much for someone in need, & unless they are your child...well, my patience would have run out. I mean, honestly, what grown woman (Ann) would tolerate another grown woman (Lucy) climbing up into her lap like a child & asking repeatedly "do you love me?" & in PUBLIC no less?? REally?? maybe this part was fabricated, I dont know, but I took it as really happening. The friends pity for Lucy fed her insecurity in my opinion. But good book.
I struggled to finish this. Yes, there were some amusing parts and some sad parts. I just kept wondering why the author would continue a twenty year friendship with someone so seemingly narcissistic and selfish. There were parts that seemed to me like jealous rantings of someone who spent half of her life living in the shadow of another. The part where her mother recommended that she save all of her letters from Lucy foreshadowed what was to become what I feel to be the intent of commercial success at the cost of another's privacy. Lots of dirty things revealed about a woman who is deceased and unable to refute or celebrate it. I just found the whole thing shameful and am upset at our bookclub member who picked this book (in conjunction with Autobiography of a Face) for this month's discussion.
This is one of my favorite stories of all time--the account of an unusual and close relationships between two writers with more hope, tenderness and drama than you can imagine. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction, and this is a very true story.
Not for the faint-hearted, as one of the friends suffers from a rare and debilitating disorder, which the other one helps her to survive.