Truth & Beauty:
A Friendship

by Ann Patchett

Harper Collins, 2004. ISBN 0060572140.
Reviewed by Lee Ambrose
Posted on 07/01/2004

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Relationships; Nonfiction: Body Language

Readers will likely recognize the author's name from her previous novels, including Bel Canto, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award, and The Patron Saint of Liars, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Readers also may recognize Ann Patchett from her articles that appear in such publications as Gourmet, the New York Times Magazine, and the Paris Review. No doubt, some readers will recognize Patchett's friend, Lucy Grealy, as the author of the critically acclaimed memoir, Autobiography of a Face.

Truth & Beauty is the story of the friendship shared by Lucy Grealy and Ann Patchett. It is at once tender, heartwarming, heartbreaking and complex. Truth & Beauty is neither the story of Lucy nor the story of Ann, but of the parts of each life that were shared. What one lacked, the other offered for the relationship. What one shared, the other reached out to receive.

Ann and Lucy met in the early 1980s while attending college. At the Iowa Writers' Workshop, they began a friendship that would become a lifelong process. This is no ordinary friendship. It is one riddled with emotional upheaval, creative successes and disappointments, health crises, and ultimately the lecherous hold of drug abuse.

This is a phenomenal look at the way in which two exceptionally creative people lived, loved, wrote, and grappled with the realities of life. It is also an extremely sensitive description of the way a woman wrought with illness, despair and depression can one minute create beauty and the next minute search for ways to destroy herself.

Truth & Beauty is the story of two friends who loved one another through the best and worst of times. It is a portrayal of loyalty and devotion over more than twenty years of friendship, and a haunting, heartbreaking portrait of the belief in the invincibility of one who lives so largely despite their diminuitive size. Only to find that no one is one.

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