Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett

Book Review: Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett.

How does a book both end up as required reading in a college course, and at the same time end up the target of an attempted ban? My curiosity was sparked. Required reading that includes pornography? What? No way. Can’t be. Eventually I found the full script of Ann Patchet’s speech that required her to have a body guard due to the outcry of college student parents that wanted her nowhere near their children. It was this part of the speech that told me I had to read the book:

“If stories about girls who are disfigured by cancer, humiliated by strangers, and turn to sex and drugs to escape from their enormous pain are too disgusting, too pornographic, then I have to tell you, friends, the Holocaust is off-limits. The Russian Revolution, the killing fields of Cambodia, the war in Vietnam, the Crusades, all represent such staggering acts of human depravity and perversion that I could see the virtue of never looking at them at all.”

After reading that paragraph, I knew there was something important in her book that I needed to read, so I bought the book and patiently waited for it to arrive. When I finished it, I thought, this was not at all a pornographic story, this is a story about a person (Lucy Grealy) who struggled as a young girl due to something completely out of her control. She had a rare cancer that required medical procedures that disfigured her face to remove the cancer, followed by years of medical treatment that never allowed the developing young girl to live a normal life.

This is a story of friendship that formed between someone who was amazed by Lucy’s strength, but who also saw Lucy’s weakness, and tried to be a friend to help her get through. This is a story of a friend who witnessed Lucy receiving both bad treatment due to her disfigured face, and enjoying life among those who cared for her. Most importantly, Ann Patchet saw the loneliness that Lucy struggled through.

This truly is a story about forming an unusual friendship, a friendship that did include love, but love as a friend, not the stupid exaggerations written about by people who had never read the book. Ann Patchet was able to capture the story of a struggling life, in which she describes the actions of a young lost girl who was responding to an unfair start in life. A girl who never seemed to have an ending to her struggles. This is a story of how people in general treated the young girl, and how she fought back with her strength, when really inside she was scared and lonely.

It is a beautiful story, about love, friendship and much more. And spoiler alert, it does not have a happy ending, not for Lucy at least. But it is a true story, and reality doesn’t always end well. This story exemplifies how our society values the wrong things, such as beauty on the outside instead of beauty found on the inside. A good read. It will change your perspective of how you look at others, and maybe even how people treat others when they look a little different.

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