Struggling to Maintain a Difficult Friendship
I’ve read several of Ann Patchett’s books in the past, but I wasn’t really sure what to expect from her when it came to nonfiction. In most cases, I’ve found that writers excel at either fiction or nonfiction – very few can do justice to both formats.
However, I thought the story of Patchett’s friendship with another writer sounded promising enough to make Truth & Beauty worth a look.
This memoir showcases the unique relationship that develops between Ann, who wants to be a novelist, and Lucy Grealy, who is an aspiring poet. The two girls earned their undergraduate degrees from the same school, but didn’t really get to know each other until they both arrived in Iowa City to attend Iowa Writer’s Workshop.
Ann is shy and very responsible, while Lucy is used to being the center of attention. They are somewhat competitive with each other in their relationship, but because they specialize in different types of writing, they are usually able to put their differences aside when it matters most.
Lucy beat cancer of the jaw as a child, which caused severe facial disfigurement and various other health problems. To cope with the stress associated with her medical condition, Lucy engages in various risky behaviors. She abuses drugs and alcohol and has several inappropriate romantic relationships.
Ann tries to come to her rescue, but eventually realizes this is an impossible task. Lucy’s demons end up being far too big for anyone to fight and Ann must find a way to cope with the guilt she feels over somehow having “failed” to be a good enough friend to bring Lucy back to safety.
I love reading memoirs because I find it interesting to hear how other people have coped with difficult situations in their lives. If you’ve ever struggled to come up with the best way to support a friend in need, Truth & Beauty is a story you’ll immediately relate to.
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