Review – Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett
by Jon Page - March 10th, 2014
After reading Ann Patchett’s This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage I had to go back and read this book. Firstly because I learnt Ann writes non fiction just as beautifully as she does her fiction and secondly she talks in the book about a controversy surrounding Truth & Beauty.
In 2006, Clemson University assigned Truth & Beauty to the freshman class and Ann was invited to give the Convocation Address. However one parent deemed the book inappropriate, the media got involved and mass ignorance ensued. Ann details the events in ‘“The Love Between the Two Women Is Not Normal”’ in her frank and forthright style, her humour keeping you from boiling with outrage. After reading the book the whole incident seems even more ridiculous and also I sense more hurtful that Ann let on in her piece.
Truth & Beauty is the story of Ann’s friendship with Lucy Grealy. Lucy had a highly aggressive form of cancer when she was a child which left her with a badly disfigured jaw. Lucy had numerous operations throughout her life to try and correct and/or alleviate her disfigurement.
Lucy’s whole life was (rightly and wrongly) dominated by her face. It defined how people treated her and it defined how she saw herself. It was a part of who she was and shaped her as a person, good and bad. It was also a burden that became impossible for her to bear but her friends were always there to help pull her through.
Ann met Lucy at college but they became friends when they both attended the Iowa Writers Workshop together. Their lives and careers became entwined from that day forward. Ann writes about her friendship with Lucy warts and all. The good times and the bad. The times when Lucy was on top of the world and vice versa. How they supported each other through thick and thin and all the difficulties any friendship faces along the way.
Ann tells the story of her friendship with Lucy with clarity and emotion, with honesty and understanding. Heart breaking and gut wrenching. Truth and beauty. Ann Patchett at her best.