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Publisher's Summary

The author of Bel Canto, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Orange Prize, and long-running New York Times best seller, turns to nonfiction in a moving chronicle of her decades-long friendship with the critically acclaimed and recently deceased author, Lucy Grealy.

What happens when the person who is your family is someone you aren't bound to by blood? What happens when that person is not your lover, but your best friend? In her frank and startlingly intimate first work of nonfiction, Truth & Beauty, Ann Patchett shines light on the little-explored world of women's friendships and shows us what it means to stand together.

Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy met in college in 1981, and after enrolling in the Iowa Writer's Workshop began a friendship that would be as defining to both of their lives as their work. In her critically acclaimed memoir, Autobiography of a Face, Lucy Grealy wrote about the first half of her life. In Truth & Beauty, the story isn't Lucy's life or Ann's life but the parts of their lives they shared together. This is a portrait of unwavering commitment that spans 20 years, from the long cold winters of the Midwest to surgical wards to book parties in New York. Through love, fame, drugs, and despair, this is what it means to be part of two lives that are intertwined.

This is a tender, brutal book about loving the person we cannot save. It is about loyalty and about being lifted up by the sheer effervescence of someone who knew how to live life to the fullest.

Don't miss our free Ann Patchett interview. Patchett is an Audible CelebrityListener - find out what she's listening to here.
©2004 Ann Patchett; (P)2004 HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • Alex Award Winner, 2005

"This gorgeously written chronicle unfolds as an example of how friendships can contain more passion and affection than any in the romantic realm." (Publishers Weekly)
"An electrifyingly intimate portrait of a remarkable human being, and a profoundly insightful chronicle of an incandescent friendship." (Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Suzn F
  • Fletcher, VT, US
  • 02-20-12

It got better....

I rarely give up on a book and I almost did with Truth and Beauty. I am a fan of other Patchett books, Bel Canto, Magician's Assistant, State of Wonder...but this one, was too much, just too much of this back and forth between these two mostly unhappy people. I find it hard to believe that Patchett would want to write about every conversation, every sad call yet perhaps if I had read Lucy Grealy's book I may feel otherwise. The book did begin to hold my interest as it progressed, but for me overall, I guess it was just too depressing.
I must say however that Lucy Grealy was an amazing woman it seems at least from her friend's account. And to have such a friendship, what a gift for Ann and Lucy.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

well done

Ann Patchett does a remarkable job of describing her friendship with Lucy Greely, painting a vivid portrait of Lucy and her own masochistic love for her. I highly recommend reading Lucy Greely's own autobiography, "Autobiography of a Face" prior to listening to this - Audible doesn't have it yet, but it might be hard to understand this description of Lucy's later life without knowing the background. Otherwise, empathizing with their friendship could be difficult since she does not really describe the events which made Lucy the tragic heroine that she is. I reserve 5 stars for the best of the best, but this is a good listen; she does an excellent job narrating her book and it is heart rending, and even compelling at times.

13 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Charles
  • Cathlamet, WA, USA
  • 04-05-05

A grim tale of unrecovered co-dependency

I found this book a tragic example of tragic as if it were a discription of the failure of bloodletting to cure diabetes. While the treatment for addiction and co-dependency is not always successful it is available, and I believe that this book really misses the point of the real problems that complicated the incredible difficulties both women faced. Co-dependence and addiction are primary...not secondary problems, and this book is probably one of the most gruesome examples of tragic denial I have ever read...especially as one witnesses the corruption of genuine courage by the disease of addiction and confused co-dependence. Ignorance amplifies the tradegy, and actually serves the denial of readers who may have similar problems. The tragedy here goes on with that omission because if you don't know what you are dealing with you can't deal with it at all. I was actually sorry I bought it.

16 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • Patricia
  • Greenwood Village, CO, United States
  • 08-17-16

Patchett easy to listen to

I find it difficult to listen to some authors reading their own books, but not Anne Patchett. And this is a mesmerizing portrait of a brilliant mind and fascinating personality being slowly whittled down. A beautiful testament to a truly great friendship.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Heidi
  • Dana Point, CA, USA
  • 06-26-06

Surprisingly unemotional!

I purchased this book because I had previously read Ann Patchett's novel Patron Saint of Liars and loved it, and I was interested in the subject of friendship and her take on what I imagined might prove to be a rather enmeshed or difficult one. I anticipated a sad ending (won't give away any details) but was surprised that my reaction wasn't very emaotional..I don't know if it was Ann Patchett's rather dry delivery or her more cerebral approach to the writing of the one point in the book she speaks humorously of 'repression' as a coping mechanism, so maybe that is the reason. No matter why, I found it to be a fascinating exploration of her relationship with Lucy Grealy, and it gave me lots of subject matter for my armchair psychoanalyst mind to peruse. I was never bored, and was grateful for the opportunity to get inside the mind and heart of an author whom I admire very much. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in relationships, addiction, depression, writing, codependency, or Ann Patchett.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Excellent audiobook

I've listened to about 40 books since joining Audible, and this is one of my favorites. I love the author's voice, and the writing is wonderful--nothing too showy or flowery, just a really nice use of language. I do suggest that you read "Autobiography of a Face" before you listen to this book.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Julie
  • Glendora, CA, USA
  • 03-30-05


This was an audio book that I suffered through. It was a long drawn out review of their friendship together and Lucy was a "friend" that I wished Ann had dropped years before. I would never recommend this book to anyone!

5 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Rachel
  • Chicago, IL, USA
  • 11-18-04

Truth And Beauty

Captivating work beautifully read by the author.

6 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Debra
  • Minneapolis, MN, United States
  • 06-10-15


As a huge Ann Patchett fan, I enjoyed learning about her earlier life, influences, pastimes, humor, insecurities. As always, beautiful writing – but I never quite got what was so compelling about Lucy. It almost felt as if the book was written for the author to sort out her own feelings.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • A.S.
  • Laguna Niguel
  • 02-01-15

Well written and read - a perfect example

What made the experience of listening to Truth & Beauty the most enjoyable?

That the author read her own work.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The relationship between the author and her subject comprise the main "character."

Which character – as performed by Ann Patchett – was your favorite?


If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Friendship is beautiful.

Any additional comments?

This is how all audio books should be produced. Well-read and professionally recorded.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful