Monday, April 21, 2014
Book Review: Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett
Author: Ann Patchett
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Content Alert: language, drug use, mentions of sex
Truth and Beauty focuses on Patchett’s relationship with her best friend, the poet Lucy Grealy, who lost part of her jaw from a Ewing’s sarcoma as a child, and who ultimately died at the age of 39 in 2002. Grealy endured about 40 surgeries over the course of her lifetime, and when she wasn’t in the hospital, she was ambitious and hardworking, garnering many prizes and fellowships and shows Patchett and Grealy to have one of those great best friend kinds of relationships that people are lucky to come by once in a lifetime. However, the book also shows Grealy to have moments where she’s difficult and capricious.She constantly seeks validation, demanding Ann to tell her that she’s her very best friend. Jealous of Ann’s other friendships, she climbs into her lap at dinner and prevents Ann from having conversations with others at the table. She does things that would bug the heck out of me.
I’m sure that Ann would be the first person to admit that she was not a saint, but over the course of the story she continues to show love to Lucy– she nurses her after her surgeries and plays gatekeeper at the hospital. And as Lucy became more and more difficult and self-destructive in the final months of her life, Ann did her best to support Lucy even as she was pushed away.
While Truth and Beauty was somewhat controversial and Grealy's sister publicly criticized the book, saying, "Lucy was a uniquely gifted writer. Ann, not so gifted, is lucky to be able to hitch her wagon to my sister's star. I wish Lucy's work had been left to stand on its own." However, I doubt that I would have been introduced to Grealy's work had it not been for Patchett. I also think the book is beautifully written, and an enduring legacy to a female friendship that spanned the good times and the bad.