Author: Ann Patchett
Number of pages: 257
Year published: 2005
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
To begin, I would like to encourage my fellow seniors not to flee from the name Ann Patchett. While many of us may not be particularly fond of her due to the fact that she was the reason that we had required reading the summer before college, Ann Patchett is actually a very talented author. Truth & Beauty was written in light of the death of Patchett’s great friend, American poet and author Lucy Grealy. The book traces their friendship from its beginning in 1985 through nearly twenty years of love, rejection, hope, and despair. By recounting specific conversations, citing real letters from Lucy, and describing each moment with an enormous amount of detail, Patchett provides insight into the intricacies and overall beauty of her relationship with Lucy Grealy. It is a book on loyalty, devotion, and love.
I started reading Truth and Beauty after it was given to me by a professor who called it “her favorite book on women’s friendship.” I decided I would give it a chance, but braced myself for a slow-paced, drawn-out novel. To my surprise, once I began reading this book I found myself genuinely looking forward to the next time I would pick it up. While it wasn’t something I would sit down and read for long periods of time, it was a book that I could easily read in small sections whenever I had a free moment.
The friendship between Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy was unique, unexpected, and at the same time, perfect. Ann, a level-headed writer, served as a stabilizing factor for the erratic Lucy Grealy. Lucy, who was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at the age of nine that required the removal of her jawbone, spent great chunks of her life in hospitals, recovering from facial reconstructive surgeries. Despite this obstacle, she remained a vivacious character that only exhibited her insecurities to those closest to her.
Naturally, once I finished reading this book I had a compulsion to see who my new friend Lucy Grealy was, to place her in a real world context. I found myself watching a Charlie Rose interview of Lucy from 1994, during which I felt as though I was watching an old friend speak. In my head, I already knew Lucy Grealy more intimately than Charlie Rose could ever know her. The Lucy I had met through Truth and Beauty was exuberant, energetic, dynamic, complex, and profound in a way such that she could only be truly understood by those closest to her—including myself, of course.
By all of this, what I mean to say is that Ann Patchett did such an outstanding job of bringing Lucy Grealy back to life that the written Lucy now seems more alive to me than the real woman that was captured on film. It is the detail of her writing, the honesty in each of her words, and the vivacity of her memories that serve to develop Lucy’s personality, Ann’s love, and their friendship so completely.
While this novel is not necessarily a “page-turner,” it still kept my attention. The sections of the novel that are slow or frustrating are only that way because Ann Patchett did such a tremendous job of portraying each event without any sugar-coating. I would recommend this book to any woman that is interested in reading about true friendship. In addition, writers should consider checking out this memoir since Ann Patchett describes her career path and the struggles she faced to become the author she is today. It is an entertaining and emotional novel in which Ann Patchett offers the reader a chance to be a part of the beautiful friendship between her and Lucy Grealy.
Review by Christie Wentworth, A&S '13