Truth & beauty A friendship

Ann Patchett

Large print - 2004

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Waterville, Me. : Thorndike Press 2004.
Large print ed
Item Description
Simultaneously published: New York : HarperCollins, c2004.
Physical Description
397 p. (large print)
Main Author
Ann Patchett (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Patchett's fourth novel, Bel Canto (2001), was a resounding success, but all was not rosy. Her best friend, fellow writer Lucy Grealy, was suffering some of the worst times yet in her altogether traumatic life. Grealy died in December 2002, and Patchett now offers an electrifyingly intimate portrait of a remarkable human being, and a profoundly insightful chronicle of an incandescent friendship. Grealy wrote about her life-defining struggle with cancer of the jaw, and the cruel disfigurement left in its wake, in Autobiography of a Face (1994), a shattering memoir that transformed its scintillating and daring author into a celebrity who all too soon became a cause celebre. Patchett and Grealy's loving, complicated, and, for Patchett, extraordinarily demanding relationship began when they roomed together while attending the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Their shared passion for literature fueled their bond, and one particularly intriguing facet of this bracing remembrance is its insider perspective on the writing life. But their attraction was also one of temperamental opposites. "We were a pairing out of an Aesop's fable, the grasshopper and the ant," Patchett writes, casting herself, oh so poignantly, as the ant. 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. ((Reviewed March 1, 2004)) Copyright 2004 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In her first nonfiction work, the author of the best-selling Bel Canto recounts her extraordinary relationship with poet Lucy Grealy, whose Autobiography of a Face memorably recounts her ordeal with cancer as a child and the subsequent operations to reconstruct her face. The two first met at Sarah Lawrence College and, after being accepted into the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop, became roommates out of necessity. Their friendship began there and developed into an intellectually stimulating relationship that shaped them as both women and artists. They remained best friends until Grealy's tragic death in December 2002. To tell her story, Patchett effectively intersperses her memories with Grealy's letters and also considers how adults forge familial relationships. The result is a contemporary story of friendship and the writing life at once intense, honest, and heartbreaking. Most highly recommended for all libraries, whether public or academic.-Pam Kingsbury, Univ. of North Alabama, Florence Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

This memoir of Patchett's friendship with Autobiography of a Face author Lucy Grealy shares many insights into the nature of devotion. One of the best instances of this concerns a fable of ants and grasshoppers. When winter came, the hard-working ant took the fun-loving grasshopper in, each understanding their roles were immutable. It was a symbiotic relationship. Like the grasshopper, Grealy, who died of cancer at age 39 in 2002, was an untethered creature, who liked nothing more than to dance, drink and fling herself into Patchett's arms like a kitten. Patchett (The Patron Saint of Liars; Bel Canto) tells this story chronologically, in bursts of dialogue, memory and snippets of Grealy's letters, moving from the unfolding of their deep connection in graduate school and into the more turbulent waters beyond. Patchett describes her attempts to be a writer, while Grealy endured a continuous round of operations as a result of her cancer. Later, when adulthood brought success, but also heartbreak and drug addiction, the duo continued to be intertwined, even though their link sometimes seemed to fray. This gorgeously written chronicle unfolds as an example of how friendships can contain more passion and affection than any in the romantic realm. And although Patchett unflinchingly describes the difficulties she and Grealy faced in the years after grad school, she never loses the feeling she had the first time Grealy sprang into her arms: "[She] came through the door and it was there, huge and permanent and first." Agent, Lisa Bankoff. (May 14) Forecast: Patchett and Grealy are graduates of the Iowa Writers Workshop, and alumni and other literary types will be interested in this book. National advertising and a reading group guide could make it popular among a more general women's audience. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Review by School Library Journal Reviews

Adult/High School-Lucy Grealy, whose Autobiography of a Face (HarperCollins, 1995) found critical acclaim as well as a popular readership, died two years ago. Patchett first met the poet in college, became her roommate in graduate school, and remained devoted to her through years of artistic, medical, economic, and emotional upheavals. The ties binding these two women included resolve to meet physical adversity with energy and to place friendship beyond the reaches of either habit or convenience. Patchett moves the story from their acclimation to one another through her friend's lifelong desire to gain a reconstructed face and the lengths to which she went in search of what she'd lost to childhood cancer, to Grealy's ultimate slide into drugs and suicidal ideations. Patchett's own self-perception as the straight arrow to her friend's daredevilry is disclosed across time, as is Grealy's increasingly frenetic chase for a reconstructed face and, as important, for fame earned through writing. In spite of the story unfolding through the years between college and near middle age, teenage girls will find it accessible and engaging. The author's clear-eyed depiction of the writer's life as requiring gigs waiting tables and suburban tract housing is refreshingly honest. She includes details of more glamorous moments as well; this is no cautionary tale, but a celebration of friendship and of craft.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.