Book Nook: Two Books, One Woman

Truth & Beauty: A Friendship Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett

My review
rating: 5 of 5 stars
I borrowed Truth & Beauty from my mom, who had gotten it from my cousin. My mom never read this book; she knew one of the main characters, Lucy Grealy, had a rare, childhood cancer. As my mom is going through cancer treatments right now, she did not want to read a book full of cancer. When you are going through cancer, you really don’t want to read about someone else’s struggle, since you are in the midst of your own fight to survive. Even though I’m a cancer survivor and also avoid books about cancer, I decided to take the plunge. I really enjoyed Ann Patchett’s other books, and looked forward to reading this one.

While Ann Patchett does write quite a bit about Lucy’s cancer and how it has affected Lucy’s life, this book is mainly about a friendship between two writers. Lucy lost much of her jaw bone to cancer, and so undergoes many surgeries to try to reconstruct her jaw. Ann befriends Lucy at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and so becomes part of her life. What happens from then on can only be described by Ann. They truly had a life-long and wonderful friendship.

The book does not end as you might think. Lucy’s demons haunt her, and even her friendship with Ann cannot save her. It is a true story, after all. Even with the sad ending, it is well worth reading.

Autobiography of a Face Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

My review
rating: 3 of 5 stars
I had just finished reading Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett when I delved into Autobiography of a Face. Lucy states at a book reading during her book tour that she is a writer. She didn’t come to compare cancer survivor stories, or to be told how brave she was to survive such a rare childhood cancer; she came to read her work as an author.

Ann Patchett advises us to read Lucy’s book for her talented writing. I thought I would be reading this book as a cancer survivor myself. I tried to do the first; and didn’t even accomplish the second. I read this book as a mother, and didn’t like reading about her struggles with cancer at all. This is not to say I don’t recommend this book; it’s just hard to read about a little girl facing so much trauma in her life.

I also think I read these books in the wrong order. Autobiography of a Face covers Lucy Grealy’s childhood, and Truth & Beauty tells more of her adult life. Maybe I would have enjoyed Autobiography more if I had read it first.

Lucy Grealy tells her story bluntly and to the point. She tells her story from her childhood point of view, and from her memories of cancer. Losing her jaw to cancer had such huge ramifications in her life that the rest of us can’t even begin to imagine how she really felt about her life. Ann Patchett tell us that Lucy saves us from the worst parts of her story; Lucy doesn’t even tell us hurtful stories she might have written about.

I really wanted to like this book, but in the end, I preferred Truth & Beauty. Even though it tells a sad story, it is so full of life and friendship that I preferred it to Autobiography. But Lucy Grealy had a difficult story to tell, and she did so with style.

What book should I read next? Do you have any recommendations? Please, no books about cancer or other depressing topics! How about something upbeat?

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