the next good book

Truth & Beauty: A Friendship

By Ann Patchett


257 pages

Megan’s Thoughts What’s It About? The memoir, published in 2004, traces the seventeen-year friendship between Lucy Grealy, a successful memoirist and poet, and the well-known author Ann Patchett. The two first met in 1981 at Sarah Lawrence College, and later roomed together as graduate students at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. A rare cancer of the jaw, necessitating extensive treatment and countless surgeries, had left an adult Lucy with a disfigured face and overwhelming fear she was unworthy of love. Although both women were extraordinarily talented, Ann was the disciplined rule-follower and Lucy, the dazzling, nick-of-time rebel. Yet, despite their differences, they intuitively understood each other and developed a deep and lasting friendship. Despite her friend’s neediness and sometimes irresponsible behavior, Patchett held fast as Lucy’s fierce protector through her drug addiction, the abandonment of her writing career and her premature death in 2002 at age 39 from an accidental heroin overdose. What Did It Make Me think About? What makes a true friend? (Acceptance, challenge, nurturing? Surviving emotionally challenging situations? Compassion, familiarity, openness?) Both the solace and distress of friendship. The power of loyalty. Women v. men as true friends, soul friends. The undeniable influence of our individual vantage points as we interpret our lives. The benefit-burden analysis in friendship. The need for boundaries. How to have a healthy, reciprocal relationship with a fascinating, brilliant, but all-consuming friend and friendship tester. Should I read It? I’ll eagerly read anything written by Ann Patchett, including her grocery lists. She’s that good, in my opinion. Her portrait of friendship, focusing primarily on the points her life converged with Lucy’s, reads more like a love letter to her dearest and best friend than her own life story. In my opinion, writing from a place of deep love and honesty, Patchett commits their story to paper without need to justify or explain it. Yes, it’s a wonderful read. Quote. “She [Lucy] could talk. She could talk on the nature of truth and beauty for hours, and after all, what novel or poem or play in an Introduction to Literature class couldn’t benefit from a truth-and-beauty discussion.”     Related books not on this site: The Autobiography of a Face, by Lucy Grealy. Let’s Take the Long Way Home: a Memoir of Friendship, by Gail Caldwell. Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: A True (as told to me) Story, by Bess Kalb. What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship and Love, by Carol Radziwill  

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