Truth and Beauty: A Friendship

Truth and Beauty: A Friendship

by Ann Patchett

Hardcover(Large Print)

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The author of Bel Canto -- winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Orange Prize and long-running New York Times bestseller -- turns to nonfiction in a moving chronicle of her decades-long friendship with the critically acclaimed and recently deceased author, Lucy Grealy.

What happens when the person who is your family is someone you aren't bound to by blood? What happens when that person is not your lover, but your best friend? In her frank and startlingly intimate first work of nonfiction, Truth & Beauty, Ann Patchett shines light on the little-explored world of women's friendships and shows us what it means to stand together.

Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy met in college in 1981, and after enrolling in the Iowa Writer's Workshop began a friendship that would be as defining to both of their lives as their work. In her critically acclaimed memoir, Autobiography of a Face, Lucy Grealy wrote about the first half of her life. In Truth & Beauty, the story isn't Lucy's life or Ann's life but the parts of their lives they shared together. This is a portrait of unwavering commitment that spans 20 years, from the long cold winters of the Midwest to surgical wards to book parties in New York. Through love, fame, drugs and despair, this is what it means to be part of two lives that are intertwined.

This is a tender, brutal book about loving the person we cannot save. It is about loyalty and about being lifted up by the sheer effervescence of someone who knew how to live life to the fullest.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786269716
Publisher: Gale Group
Publication date: 11/02/2004
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 370
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

ANN PATCHETT is the author of seven novels and three works of nonfiction. She is the winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, England's Orange Prize, and the Book Sense Book of the Year, and was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She is the co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, where she lives with her husband, Karl, and their dog, Sparky.


Nashville, Tennessee

Date of Birth:

December 2, 1963

Place of Birth:

Los Angeles, California


B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1985; M.F.A., University of Iowa, 1987

Read an Excerpt

Truth & Beauty
A Friendship

Chapter One

The thing you can count on in life is that Tennessee will always be scorching hot in August. In 1985 you could also pretty much count on the fact that the U-Haul truck you rented to drive from Tennessee to Iowa, cutting up through Missouri, would have no air-conditioning or that the air-conditioning would be broken. These are the things I knew for sure when I left home to start graduate school. The windows were down in the truck and my stepsister, Tina, was driving. We sat on towels to keep our bare legs from adhering to the black vinyl seats and licked melted M&Ms off our fingers. My feet were on the dashboard and we were singing because the radio had gone the way of the air conditioner. "Going to the chapel and we're -- gonna get mar-ar-aried." We knew all the words to that one. Tina had the better voice, one more reason I was grateful she had agreed to come along for the ride. I was twenty-one and on my way to be a fiction writer. The whole prospect seemed as simple as that: rent a truck, take a few leftover pots and pans and a single bed mattress from the basement of my mother's house, pack up my typewriter. The hills of the Tennessee Valley flattened out before we got to Memphis and as we headed north the landscape covered over with corn. The blue sky blanched white in the heat. I leaned out the window and thought, Good, no distractions.

I had been to Iowa City once before in June to find a place to live. I was looking for two apartments then, one for myself and one for Lucy Grealy, who I had gone to college with. I got a note from Lucy not long after receiving my acceptance letter from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She said that initially when she heard I had gotten into the workshop she was sorry, because she had wanted to be the only student there from Sarah Lawrence. But then our mutual friend Jono Wilks had told her that I was going up early to find housing and if this was the case, would I find a place for her as well? She couldn't afford to make the trip to look herself and so it went without saying that she was on a very tight budget. I sat at the kitchen table and looked at her handwriting, which seemed oddly scrawny and uncertain, like a note on a birthday card from an elderly aunt. I had never seen her writing before, and certainly these were the only words she had ever addressed to me. While Lucy and I would later revise our personal history to say we had been friends since we met as freshmen, just for the pleasure of adding a few more years to the tally, the truth was we did not know each other at all in college. Or the truth was that I knew her and she did not know me. Even at Sarah Lawrence, a school full of models and actresses and millionaire daughters of industry, everyone knew Lucy and everyone knew her story: she had had a Ewing's sarcoma at the age of nine, had lived through five years of the most brutal radiation and chemotherapy, and then undergone a series of reconstructive surgeries that were largely unsuccessful. The drama of her life, combined with her reputation for being the smartest student in all of her classes, made her the campus mascot, the favorite pet in her dirty jeans and oversized Irish sweaters. She kept her head tipped down so that her long dark blond hair fell over her face to hide the fact that part of her lower jaw was missing. From a distance you would have thought she had lost something, money or keys, and that she was vigilantly searching the ground trying to find it.

It was Lucy's work-study job to run the film series on Friday and Saturday nights, and before she would turn the projector on, it was up to her to walk in front of the screen and explain that in accordance with the New York State Fire Marshal, exits were located at either side of the theater. Only she couldn't say it, because the crowd of students cheered her so wildly, screaming and applauding and chanting her name, "LOO-cee, LOO-cee, LOO-cee!" She would wrap her arms around her head and twist from side to side, mortified, loving it. Her little body, the body of an underfed eleven-year-old, was visibly shaking inside her giant sweaters. Finally her embarrassment reached such proportions that the audience recognized it and settled down. She had to speak her lines. "In accordance with the New York State Fire Marshal," she would begin. She was shouting, but her voice was smaller than the tiny frame it came from. It was no more than a whisper once it passed the third row.

I watched this show almost every weekend. It was as great a part of the evening's entertainment as seeing Jules et Jim. Being shy myself, I did not come to shout her name until our junior year. By then she would wave to the audience as they screamed for her. She would bow from the waist. She had cut off her hair so that it was now something floppy and boyish, a large cowlick sweeping up from her pale forehead. We could see her face clearly. It was always changing, swollen after a surgery or sinking in on itself after a surgery had failed. One year she walked with a cane and someone told me it was because they had taken a chunk of her hip to grind up and graft into her jaw.

We knew things about Lucy the way one knows things about the private lives of movie stars, by a kind of osmosis of information ...

Truth & Beauty
A Friendship
. Copyright © by Ann Patchett. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Reading Group Guide

An Introduction from the Publisher
In Truth & Beauty, her frank and startlingly intimate first work of nonfiction, Ann Patchett shines a fresh, revealing light on the world of women's friendships and shows us what it means to stand together.

Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy met in college in 1981, and, after enrolling in the Iowas Writers' Workshop, began a friendship that would be as defining to both of their lives as their work was. In her critically acclaimed and hugely successful memoir, Autobiography of a Face, Lucy Grealy wrote about losing part of her jaw to childhood cancer, the years of chemotherapy and radiation, and then the endless reconstructive surgeries. In Truth & Beauty, the story isn't Lucy's life or Ann's life, but the parts of their lives they shared. This is a portrait of unwavering commitment that spans twenty years, from the long, cold winters of the Midwest, to surgical wards, to book parties in New York. Through love, fame, drugs, and despair, this book shows us what it means to be part of two lives that are intertwined.

Topics for Discussion

  1. Ann and Lucy shared a deep and intimate bond. Is it only possible to form a relationship like that in early adulthood -- before careers are fully formed and long-term romantic relationships and children enter the picture? In what ways are our relationships with friends different than ones with our family members? Are they always different?
  2. How does Lucy's struggle with illness and her own body shape her way of dealing with life and with the people around her? Lucy was an enormously talented writer. Did she use that gift as a way to make sense of life? Do you think writers and artists see the world differently, or more clearly, than other people?
  3. Ann chose to write about their friendship in a very frank and intimate way -- to pay tribute to Lucy's life and their whole relationship by recording the moments of triumph and joy, as well as the times of anguish and despair. Would you have the courage to be so honest?
  4. The writer's life seems to require a magical gift or creative spirit and incredible drive and focus. Are these qualities contradictory or complementary? What do you think enables writers to persevere through the years of "night jobs" in restaurants and bakeries while they work to realize their dream?

Customer Reviews

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Truth and Beauty 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 98 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read Truth and Beauty because I wanted to know how Ann Patchett would write non-fiction. I had read (and been entirely captivated by the luminescence of the prose in ) both State of Wonder and Bel Canto and I was almost over-whelmed by the beauty of Patchett's fiction. Would she be able to produce the same effect for me in this odd autobiographical/biographical story of the most important friendship in her life? The answer is perhaps as complicated as that friendship. This book reads almost like it were by a completely different person. Even the diction seems different! At the same time, though, the sense of wonder with which Patchett has her characters approach their worlds in her fiction is present all throughout this book as well, making it perfectly deserving of its name. Patchett writes about what she sees as the truth of her epic friendship with Lucy Grealy, but (despite the darkness that shadows the latter part of the book) she writes about this truth--this heart-breakingly rich friendship--with the wonder and the awe, the laughter and the tears, the poise and the surrender of facades that great beauty can engender. The truth of this story is its beauty; the beauty is its truth. Another reviewer here scoffed at this book, calling Ann and Lucy co-dependent and hinted at dark motivations in Patchett's heart for writing this book. How could this person have read the same book I did?? Was the relationship between the two women almost disturbingly intense? Without a doubt. Did I wonder what Patchett got out of the friendship? Maybe a little. Did Patchett's motives for telling her tale seem to be some kind of exoneration for both Lucy and her? Again, I would answer affirmatively. But to me, that is the key word: I believe Truth and Beauty is, indeed, Patchett's affirmation of the magnitude of the love she bore for her friend and that her friend bore for her, mixed with the great sorrows that only a friendship of this magnitude can generate--and still exist. Patchett, I think, didn't write this book for me or you. She wrote it for herself and for Lucy. And I'm certain Lucy would have loved it
Hikingalseattle More than 1 year ago
This book left me thinking, long after I'd finished the last page, about the human longing for recognition and "true love", and about where the roots of depression lie. The most interesting aspect of the story to me, was the fact that Lucy spent her life searching for something that was illusive to her. Although she evidently had many, many people who loved her, their love was never enough to fill the void for Lucy, and this was the true driving force of her life. I wondered, too, on a less philosophical note, about what role eating little but sugar & alcohol played in Lucy's depression. Ann Patchett has illuminated Lucy's complex mix of extreme intelligence, narcissism, insecurity, wit, and charisma in a beautifully written love letter, that captivates. It's a warts and all tribute to a fascinating friendship between two talented and intelligent women.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ann and Lucy are writers who met at the University of Iowa's esteemed Writers Workshop. They also attended the same college, Sarah Lawrence, but did know each other there. Lucy barely acknowledged Ann in those days. When they became roommates in Iowa, Ann's affection for Lucy took on an All About Eve quality. Ann became Lucy's servant, and Lucy ordered her about in a strange, lurid, psycho-drama that only Ann seemed to think was a normal girlfriend friendship. This was not, in my opinion, a healthy relationship. Rather, it was a disturbuing, co-dependent relationship, with latent lesbian features. I base this on Ann's own descriptions of the extent to which she went to please Lucy. No one I know would go to these lengths to please a girlfriend. Ann seems to working through her own issues throughout this book--sexual orientation, friendship, affection, romance, professional achievement. I just wish she could be more honest with her feelings and take us, the readers, one layer below. For example, she notes, with pleasure, that she slept with Lucy on many cold mornings--in a twin bed. What was Ann thinking, experiencing, fantasizing, and feeling during these nocturnal encounters with her bosum buddy Lucy? This book has a weird fascination that makes it noteworthy and eminently readable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book with a mix of emotions: I was frequently thrilled by the construction of a sentence while being saddened by the story it told. But the bottom line is that I loved it. Loved it in the unique kind of way that such a sad story can be loved. I loved Ann's courageousness to share such intimate, probably often painful memories. I loved the fact that anyone even wrote a memoir about friendship - one of the truest, most oft unsung staples of life. I find myself wishing that I could have a long gab with Ann and ask her more about Lucy or about her other friends. I feel like she understands both friendships and writing, which makes her book a remarkable offering. Yes, be prepared for a peek into a unuiqe relationship. Yes, be prepared for some sadness. Yes, have your phone handy to call up your best friend and tell him/her that you love him/her. But don't close your mind because of tears or differences. Let Ann and Lucy's friendship take you by storm, and enjoy it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is being publicized as a moving account of an enduring, loving friendship. It actuality, it is a disturbing tale of an unhealthy, co-dependent union between two women who both have severe emotional problems. Ann Patchett wrote an article for New York Magazine following the death of her friend Lucy Grealy; this book is simply a longer version of that article. Patchett cannot stop reiterating how everybody loved Lucy, how so many people were enamoured of her, 'so many people in love with her'. In reality, Grealy comes across as being very much alone. I get the impression that people viewed her as a sort of interesting novelty because of her history of illness and facial disfigurement, and that's why she got a fair amount of attention from various types of people. Certainly people were not attracted to her because of her sterling character. Even Patchett, who is bizarrely devoted to Grealy no matter how abominably she behaves, admits that Lucy was frequently awful. Lucy was the roommate from hell; she left all the cooking and cleaning duties to Patchett, while she herself left bowls of Cream of Wheat on the floor, left wet towels under pillows and runs up huge phone bills. After Patchett moves into a house with a boyfriend, Grealy, for some unexplained reason, gets a key to the place, which enables her to bring men there and have sex with them in Patchett and the boyfriends's bed. After doing so, she tells Patchett all about it...some friend! Despite Patchett's protestions about how wonderful Lucy is, I find Lucy to be downright unbearable; self-absorbed, reckless, promiscuous, thoughtless, and psychotically needy. Over and over she asks Patchett 'do you love me?'; over and over she is jumping into Patchett's arms, wrapping her legs around her waist, leaning her head on her shoulder, crawling into bed with her, hanging on to her as a limpet to a rock. Grealy is morbidly jealous on any relationship Patchett has with anyone else be they male or female. When Patchett wants to work with a woman named Betsy, she asks for Grealy's permission! Patchett does literally everything for Grealy; she gives, gives gives, while Grealy takes, takes, takes. What sense can be made of this? The only thing I can figure is that Patchett is a person who needs to be used. Grealy was a master at doing this, so no wonder Patchett was hooked on this creepy 'friendship' that seems more like a marriage. One final note: Grealy's sister Suellen, has some choice words about this book. You can read about her views in The Guardian Review. She is understandable upset by what she feels is the exploitation of her sister by Ann Patchett (who she does not regard as a very skilled writer) and by how her family has been portrayed since Grealy's death. Patchett remarked to Suellen that she has been working, writing, and living in 'the Lucy factory' and discussed film rights. Crass.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was beautiful, heartbreaking, honest, raw, funny, and everything in between. The story of a perfectly imperfect friendship between two perfectly imperfect women. You can't read it without thinking of your best girlfriends and you come out of it loving and appreciating them all a little bit more.
Sally6 More than 1 year ago
I found myself wanting to read this, but yet struggled doing so. The friendship was strong and with so much inner turmoil that it almost made me crazy. I have had a close friend who was as needy, and I had to back far a way, so I understood the pull Ann and Lucy had with their friendship.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the way Ann Patchett writes. I think her use of language is crisp and descriptive. However, this is not an easy read. I'm glad I read it, and the book is a testament to friendship, but sometimes the friendship was such a burden that I wondered how it was sustained.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book about two women who shared an unbelievably close emotional relationship. At the start of the book, Lucy and Ann lived together as graduate students at the University of Iowa. They dated men but at the end of a long day, were usually together. Lucy professed her love for Ann, leapt into her arms, smooched her lips, crawled into her bed, watched her take nude baths. Was this merely a platonic riendship or was there more to it than that? I would argue that their romance had lesbian overtones. Oddly enough, the L word is not to be found in this book despite a plot that reminded me of a 1950s lesbian pulp novel about two women who fall in love, marry, but remain in love. Erotic or platonic love. You, the reader, be the judge.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a beautifully crafted story of an intense, demanding friendship in which Patchett seems to be doing all the giving. You question the health and craziness of that relationship throughout the book -- something Patchett herself doesn't address. That's disappointing.
irishwasherwoman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I tried to read this book for our "Let's Talk About It" book group, using the theme of love and friendship and making a difference. I could not finish this book and it was not a popular book among the group's members. I found it suffocating and excruciatingly slow.
cestovatela on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After I heard that Lucy Grealy's family objected to the publication of this memoir, I wasn't certain whether I should read it. Eventually, curiosity trumped my ethical concerns, and I opened the book. I loved Lucy's memoir, Autobiography of a Face, and watching her from another perspective is fascinating. While she is relentlessly self-critical in her own writing, Truth and Beauty depicts her as an intelligent, compelling modern-day Holly Golightly. I was fascinated that such a person could really exist, and I felt privileged by the rare opportunity to read about a real person from two very different points of view. As a bonus, the book also delivered an intriguing glimpse at the world of professional fiction writing. Though I respect the Grealy family's views about the book, I found it to be an overall flattering portrait of a deeply troubled woman, and the Lucy I got to know in Autobiography of a Face would have liked this book very much. I would definitely recommend reading Lucy's book first, and if you like it, don't miss this one.
voracious on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This memoir is a chronicle of the long-term friendship between writer, Ann Patchett, and the late Lucy Grealy (author of "The Autobiography of a Face"). They first met early on at Sarah Lawrence College and both continued on to the Iowa Writers Workshop, where they became roomates and best friends. Ann likened their relationship to the fable of the Grasshopper and the Ant, where the Grasshopper spends the warm summer months singing and playing and the Ant is busy saving up food for the long winter months. Lucy lived life spontaneously and joyfully, avoiding writing and going to parties to find whatever fun she could. Ann, the ant, toiled daily at her writing, diligently producing articles and eventually novels that gradually started to reap awards and financial success. Lucy's life was one of feast or famine, as her "Autobiography of a Face" suddenly catapults her into fame on every major talk show. However, she produced few works prior to or after that. A primary theme of the novel is Lucy's significant facial deformity, the result of surviving a deadly form of cancer as a young girl. As a result, Lucy was left without a jaw or teeth, and over the course of her life, she submitted to 38 surgeries to try and obtain the best jaw and facial structure that she could. Her chronic medical issues drew the tiny bird-like Lucy into a dependent role with Ann and her other friends, who frequently rearranged their lives to care for her, and at times, come to Lucy's rescue. Ann's relationship with Lucy was remarkable to me as Lucy was extremely dependent on her, needed constant reassurance, and was child-like and needy with her (literally sitting in her lap and eating off her plate, throwing herself in Ann's arms so she would carry her, etc.). Lucy's emotions were extremely unstable throughout her life and she appeared to suffer from Borderline personality traits. It was hard for me to understand how patient Ann could be with Lucy, as Lucy was constantly in crisis and in need of being cared for. Lucy's chronic surgeries and medical problems eventually led to her dependency on opiates and heroin, which in turn, led to suicide attempts and a fatal overdose. I really enjoyed reading this memoir, as it was exceedingly well written and described the intricate details of an intense and complicated female friendship, which lasted for many years. As a new fan of Ann Patchett's work (I loved "State of Wonder"), I am now much more interested in reading all of her works, the creation of each of which were described in this memoir. Though I picked up this novel on a whim, I was very absorbed in this book from the beginning and all the way through. I strongly recommend this work for anyone who is interested in the evolution and psychology of female friendships.
zutron on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written love story.
kellymaliawilliams on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Patchett's tribute to her friend, Lucy Grealy - a monumental story of love, grief, and self exploration
pictou on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A lovely story of friendship where unconditional love provides a lifeline for a friend, most of the time. What I learned--love cannot save everyone, sometimes it's never enough.
siri51 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very moving account of two writer's friendship - having read most of Ann's novel's, this is written from the heart.
goldiebear on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was brilliant. After reading Autobiography of a Face, I thought it only appropriate that I read this as a follow up. I am glad I did. It really brought everything home. I think I actually enjoyed this book even more. I think it shows the power of friendship. Maybe I am a bit biased, because I have had a lot of emotional relationships with friends that many people never understood. I admire Ann for being Lucy's friend through everything. Lucy really put her through a lot, yet she stood by her no matter what. I admire that and I strive for that in my own life. She was not judgemental (for the most part) and really understood what it meant to be a friend. I think that is one of life's most important and hardest things. This book was beautiful. I plan to send it to two of my friends who I think it was also hit home with. Some people may wonder why Ann stood by Lucy the way she did, but I never questioned it while reading this book. Lucy's life was an amazing one, but I think this story of their friendship is even more amazing.
kathy_h on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
i enjoyed this book immensely, in a way that i have been unable to enjoy patchett's fiction...not sure why...but anyhow, i loved the friendship between ann and lucy and thought it was a very true picture of the special relationship that can exist between two women.
ilovebooksdlk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this shortly after reading Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a face. This book is a beautiful and honest tribute to their very special friendship. Patchett is honest about not only the beauty of the friendship, but also the strains of "carrying" Lucy through some of her dark periods.A beautiful book, but I'd recommend reading Grealy first to set yourself up for this one.
leavemealone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wonderful and real story about a lifelong friendship...Read it.
sarahferstel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This memoir, in which Ann Patchett exposes the insecurities and private life of her supposedly dear friend Lucy Grealy, should be skipped. Patchett believes that in telling the story of her friendship with Lucy, she is showing the world a more complex and interesting side of a tortured soul, but, in reality, Patchett uses this book as a platform to present herself as a saint and hero. The deep bond these two women share is not tied up in their literary pursuits, as Patchett would have us believe, so much as it is tied up in Lucy's deep and pathological need for love (either platonic or romantic) and Patchett's egotistical belief that she can best fill that need. By the end of this book, I was sick of both of these women. The style is an uninteresting linear narrative with too many details of old memories to be the truth. The one redeeming feature of this book are Lucy's private letters to Ann.
ntempest on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Patchett's recollections of her long friendship with fellow writer Lucy Grealy. The book traces their relationship from their first meeting in high school, through college and graduate programs and the development of their writing careers, with honesty and compassion. Patchett is honest and forthright, not sugar coating Grealy's behavior but portraying her as a brave, insecure, sometimes crazy woman doing her best to stand up to the fate she was dealt as a child. There are times it is difficult to understand this friendship, as Grealy's behavior can sometimes be ugly. Her refusal to allow life to pass her by, however, is admirable, and it is a bravery that is obviously appealing and encouraging. A difficult, emotional read that stays with you for a very long time.
Berly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This memoir shares the friendship between Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy, both writers. Lucy had cancer as a child and as a result lost most of her jaw and teeth. She is a pixie, both slight of weight and full of energy. Her ongoing struggles with medical issues are second to her emotional instability: there is never enough love to make Lucy feel treasured and beautiful. She is most comfortable in the hospital and around doctors because she understands the rules there: be stoic, follow the rules, don't question the doctors, be a good patient. She feels special and unique in the medical setting. In life, she strives to always surround herself with people and forget her ever-changing face and her loneliness.The book lives in the space where these two lives intersected, and portrays their friendship as very tight, even possessively so at times. " 'Do you love me? She threw one leg over mine and in doing so managed to swallow up all the air in the restaurant.' " This obsessive need for Ann's undying affection is also reflected in Lucy's letters (which I loved), interspersed throughout the book. I have heard that Ann is not mentioned very much in Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face and I am interested to read that soon and see how the two stories diverge. A good read.
zacchia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ann remembers her friendship with Lucy Grealy, from the first time she met her in high school to when they found her dead in her apartament. It is a story of friendships. it tells the struggle of Lucy with her face and her countless operatios, of her struggle to find love.Pleasant, not very deep.