Saturday, April 23, 2011

Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett

I picked this book as it was in my queue.  I couldn't remember who recommended it (thank you!!!) or what it was about.  The only preconceived notion I had was that Ann Patchett had written Bel Canto and I enjoyed that immensley.  I was probably 100 pages in before I discovered that one of the "characters" name was Ann Patchett and I quickly realized I wasn't reading a beautiful work of fiction but, an even more amazingly beautiful memoir.

This is about friendship -- between Lucy Grealy and Ann Patchett -- and 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 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 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.

Rating: 4.6 Recommend

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