Say it like you mean it

To Have and To HoldThe Second Summer of the Sisterhood

Book: Truth & Beauty, Ann Patchett
Start Date: 04/11/05
End Date: 04/23/05

This is a book about Ann Patchett’s friendship with Lucy Grealy, author of Autobiography of a Face. I started out envious of their close relationship. There seemed to be nothing that they didn’t discuss. Even Lucy’s incessant need for constant validation didn’t bother me, most likely because it hit a bit close to home. Who among us wouldn’t like for our friends to say, “You’re fantastic, I love you, I’m happy we’re friends” on a regular basis?

But as the book went on and Lucy’s life became more chaotic I found myself no longer being able to relate. I haven’t read Autobiography of a Face and I was not at all aware of this person until this book so it’s hard to imagine that at one point she was so famous that people were throwing money her way without her needing to actually do anything. And it seemed that no matter how much money she got, it never stuck around for long. Publishing companies were so eager for her 2nd book that they didn’t even care what it was about. That blows my mind. So much talent wasted.

I found a blog entry where the comments got pretty heated. The reactions to Grealy ran from thinking her a hero and a survivor to finding her extremely selfish and codependent and a loser.

I don’t know what it means to be a cancer survivor. I don’t know what it means to have half of your face missing because of chemotherapy treatments. I don’t know what it means to look at yourself in the mirror every single day and think you’re not worth looking at. So, how then do I make any sort of judgement on how this woman lived her life? Was I sad that she never seemed to take advantage of the awesome talent she was said to have? Of course, but for whatever the reason, she couldn’t ever settle down. It’s easy enough to say “I would have done things differently” but playing such games is silly and pointless in my opinion.

One commenter writes that Lucy’s friends were to blame, that they all spoiled her and let her get away with all sorts of ridiculous behavior. Perhaps, but would she have lasted as long as she did had they not? There’s no way to say.

I bought the book because I like Ann Patchett’s writing and in that respect it did not disappoint. The book, whether or not you like the actual people it focuses on, is well written. I think she uses Grealy’s letters to her in a very effective manner and it’s incredible to me that she actually kept them all those years. She has her mother to thank for that; after hearing one of Grealy’s letters Patchett’s mother advises her to keep them all because they’d be important one day. I’m sure she could have written a fine book without them, but the inclusion of the letters gives the reader a chance to hear Lucy’s voice and get a little insight into who she was and not who Patchett thought she was. That’s incredibly valuable. All in all, I’d definitely recommend the book to people. I’m trying to decide now if I want to read Grealy’s book.

Posted on 04/23 at 07:18 AM


This looks to be a really good read.  I’ve considered getting it myself - I’m looking forward to hearing what you think of it.

Posted by twyla  on  04/11  at  05:41 PM

This sounds excellent.  I just added it to my TBR list.  Thanks for taking the time to write blurbs about the books you read - it’s so helpful, plus I just love hearing abut books!

Posted by twyla  on  04/24  at  06:51 PM

I loved this book. It was a gift from a friend and I think that’s how it should always be. She then gave it to me again at Christmas because she forgot about giving it to me before. smile

Posted by anna  on  05/06  at  11:50 AM

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