Truth & Beauty

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Ann Patchett has written an amazingly candid memoir of her intense and complicated, frustrating but rewarding friendship with Lucy Grealy, the celebrated author of Autobiography Of A Face (1991). The two women knew each other vaguely as undergraduates at Sarah Lawrence, became instant “best friends” as graduate students at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and up until Lucy’s death of a drug overdose in 2002, were intricately, perhaps even obsessively, involved in each other’s personal and professional lives. Truth & Beauty: A Friendship is a paean to that involvement, an intimate tracing of a kind of commitment and care that seem rare in any relationship, let alone a relationship between two ambitious, potentially rivalrous writers. It is essentially a love story, a narrative at once heartbreakingly tender and fiercely frank, which Patchett tells with an extraordinary deftness of touch and tone.

Lucy was not an easy person. Nor could one expect her to be. She had lost a good part of her left jaw to cancer as a child, endured painful rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, suffered through thirty-odd reconstructive surgeries, most of which did nothing to “repair” her face nor allow her to eat easily or much. But worse than these, she was forced to live with the unrelenting cruelty of people who mocked or recoiled from her “ugliness.” This harrowing experience is what she set down in the award-winning memoir that put her on...

(The entire section is 485 words.)