Summary and book reviews of Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett

Truth and Beauty

A Friendship

by Ann Patchett

Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett X
Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett
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  • First Published:
    May 2004, 257 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2005, 272 pages

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Book Summary

This is a tender, brutal book about loving a 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.

What happens when the person who is your family is someone you aren't bound to by blood? What happens when the person you promise to love and to honor for the rest of your life is not your lover, but your best friend? 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 Iowa 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.

This is a tender, brutal book about loving a 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.

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 chap-el 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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
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...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

The New York Times - Janet Maslin
The beauty of this book is in the details, and in the anecdotes so colorfully recalled.

The New York Times Book Review Joyce Carol Oates
Truth & Beauty is a harrowing document, composed in a spare, forthright style very different from the elegant artifice of Patchett's best-known novels...It can be no surprise that the memoir of a friendship that ends in the premature death of a gifted writer does not make for cheerful reading. And yet there is much in Truth & Beauty that is uplifting, a testament to the perennial idealism and optimism of the young.

USA Today - Jocelyn McClurg
Truth & Beauty (the title comes from a chapter in Grealy's Autobiography) is heartbreaking, funny, disturbing, at times infuriating — just like the odd but endearing Lucy.

Publishers Weekly
This gorgeously written chronicle unfolds as an example of how friendships can contain more passion and affection than any in the romantic realm.

Library Journal Pam Kingsbury
a contemporary story of friendship and the writing life at once intense, honest, and heartbreaking. Most highly recommended.

Kirkus Reviews
... a deeply moving portrait of friendship between two talented writers, illuminating the bond between herself and poet Lucy Grealy.....a tough and loving tribute, hard to put down, impossible to forget.

Booklist - Donna Seaman
Dazzling in its psychological interpretations, piquant in its wit, candid in its self-portraiture, and gracefully balanced between emotion and reason, this is an utterly involving and cathartic elegy that speaks to everyone who would do anything for their soul mate.

Reader Reviews

Tom Freeman

Bel Canto,Taft,The Magicians Assistant, Patron Saints of Liars
I am eighty and a former English teacher and independent school administrator. Normally I enjoy fiction more than non-fiction. Ann Patchett's novels rank, in my opinion, with some of Faulkner's best writing. Harper's To Kill a Mockinggbird, is a fair...   Read More

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