Suellen Grealy, sister of author Lucy Grealy, is Hijacked by Grief

A friend sent me this article after reading my review of Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy. I had learned through an internet search that Lucy’s family was unhappy about the publication of Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett, but didn’t realize to what extent until reading this. I have Truth & Beauty on hold at my local library, but after reading this I’m not sure I want to read it. I’m one of the 3 people on the planet who intensely disliked her book, Bel Canto, so reading Truth and Beauty was something I wanted to do only as an attempt to know more about Lucy. Thanks, Valerie, for sending this article from the to me.

Hijacked by grief

Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy were close friends, both writers. Lucy died suddenly 18 months ago and Ann has since written an article and a book about her friend. What does such an intimate display of a loved one do to her family? Suellen Grealy, Lucy’s sister, describes her sorrow and anger.

* Suellen Grealy

* The Guardian,

* Saturday August 7 2004

* Article history

There was an enormously distasteful story in the press some time ago. A devout elderly Muslim woman had died, and her body, when removed from the morgue for burial, was found covered with slabs of bacon. I was shocked on two levels: that there are people living among us who would do such a thing; and that such people have access to places even those of us who are not religious invest with sacredness. What saddened me most was that her family would never be able to divorce their memories of her from that awful, indescribably insulting image. In trying to make a point, someone had entirely altered the course of their grief.

“Grief” is a powerful little word. Like “love”, it accepts everything. Like “Europe” or “America”, it describes a place where anything might happen. In the land of “grief” people tear out their hair, stay in their beds, starve themselves, put their faith in saints and psychics, give up on love. All is forgiven, on the understanding that eventually they will return.

That Muslim family were hijacked on their journey. Nothing so malicious has touched me, but I think of them often, for my own grief has been forced down an unexpected path.

My little sister Lucy Grealy died in New York on December 18 2002, at the age of 39. She had accidentally taken an overdose of heroin. Her life had been hard, but she had also experienced more joy than many. As a child, she was diagnosed with a cancer in the bone of her jaw. Treating it was physically agonising and hugely disfiguring. As an adult, she wrote about her life, to enormous literary acclaim, in a book called Autobiography Of A Face. Even when she was alive, I found it difficult to read. Her descriptions of my father, who died in 1979, were unbearably true. Finding him on those pages, singing or talking to our dogs, was like dreaming. A phrase about looking out the window above the kitchen sink of our childhood home in Spring Valley, New York, was like chancing upon a yellowing photograph of a place I had once loved. When she wrote about my mother, I felt I was standing outside the door, listening to conversations I had already heard.

There was also irritation, for much of the book was careless. It was the first time I had experienced reading about my family and parts of my own life, and I realised how easy it was for Lucy simply to select her vantage point. I learned, too, how easily readers would accept it as the only true vantage point. But I was happy for Lucy. The book’s success was a first-class ticket to a world she loved, in which doing what she thought she wanted – writing – earned money.

Well before the publication of Autobiography Of A Face, Lucy had become friends with another writer, Ann Patchett. Ann was hugely patient with Lucy, who could be infuriatingly disorganised and irresponsible. She was able, it seemed, to accept Lucy’s constant need of approbation and affection, even when Lucy herself ignored, and even scorned, those needs in others. Ann was a good friend. Lucy’s life became harder, with endless reconstructive surgeries, frustration at her inability to recreate the crystalline beauty of Autobiography, and a loneliness she attributed to being “ugly”. Ann supported her throughout, with company, money, food and love.

Ann was a far better “sister” to Lucy than I could ever have been, but we never met while Lucy was alive. I had moved to London while they were still at college together. There had always been thousands of miles between us, and she was simply one of the many friends Lucy made so easily. When a review copy of Ann’s book, Taft, arrived by courier at my house in London, Lucy, staying with me, didn’t bother to open it. I wasn’t surprised by the way she tossed it dismissively on to a chair, for she rarely showed interest, at least to me, in other people’s achievements. I felt sorry for Ann then, because I knew how much she had done for my sister.

As Lucy’s life became more and more confused, I called Ann in exasperation. I had no idea that heroin had become so huge in my sister’s life. I knew she was unreachably sad. Oddly, while Lucy and I had spent hundreds of hours discussing the failings of our confused childhood, we skated quickly over the thin ice that might expose us to a truth – that Lucy’s illness had affected us all. She often had great – and comforting – insight into my mother’s lifelong depression, but the understanding between us was that my mother brought the worst of it upon herself. We made such a harsh judgment of our mother’s desperation that Lucy might have felt – in front of me, at least – that she had forfeited the right to her own. Ann, unwittingly, colluded. “Lucy’s so much like her mother,” I said over the phone. “Don’t tell her that,” Ann replied.

At the funeral in New York, Ann read a beautiful piece she had written. Afterwards, I was consoled by my new, transatlantic email friendship with Ann. Six weeks later, she wanted an article about Lucy to appear in the New Yorker but in the end settled on New York magazine instead. Ann emailed a document for my signature, a family permission to use Lucy’s letters. I was surprised that it did not mention the New York magazine article, but referred to HarperCollins, her publisher. I wish now that I had sent it to Lucy’s agent in New York. But I was grieving, and innocent of the implications.

That was my mistake.

At about the same time, my sister Sarah – Lucy’s nonidentical twin – and I were trying to sort through Lucy’s papers in Connecticut, where she had stayed towards the end of her life. A family painting had disappeared from her room, along with many other belongings, and Sarah and I were sad about this. Friends of hers, not including Ann, had already been there. Sarah and I sorted through our own feelings at the time, confused as they were, and tried to convince ourselves that friends Lucy had loved were just as “entitled” to have her things as we were. I still believe that, even now. Lucy had loved that painting, however, and I was disturbed that someone would feel more entitled to such a connection with her past. I believed my nephews should have had it.

While I was staying with Sarah, HarperCollins wanted to reissue Autobiography Of A Face with an afterword by Ann. We had read the afterword, and it was beautiful, but Sarah had asked, “Where are we in this story?” We are everywhere, I told her, like the paper it is printed on, though no one knows this but us. HarperCollins seemed very keen to issue it quickly, and we agreed. We thought, how could we not? We were in no state of mind to imagine the implications.

I noticed that the reading Ann gave at Lucy’s funeral and the piece in New York magazine shared similar phrases. The magazine had used a photograph of Lucy on the cover, and for a week Sarah, working in Manhattan, had to walk past a huge wall of these covers by the newsagent in the lobby of her building. She rushed past each day not looking, forcing herself to believe that having her dead twin’s face staring out at her was a good thing, because people had loved her. I felt so sorry for Sarah then.

Then Ann began to write what was to become Truth & Beauty, about her friendship with my sister. At first I believed that this was as it should be. Ann is an artist, how else could she express her grief? This was the defence I used to friends in New York. They had been surprised by some of the personal detail in the New York magazine article; they asked, “But why is she doing this?”

Later, Ann was in England for the Oxford Literary Festival. I heard a Woman’s Hour interview that she did – as winner of the Orange Prize for Bel Canto – with Martha Kearney. They discussed Truth & Beauty, then in progress. Ann appeared to believe that after the success of Bel Canto, critics would judge her less harshly for a work of nonfiction.

Around that time, Publishers Weekly in the US noted Ann’s forthcoming work of nonfiction about Lucy, referring to her as the “heavily disfigured writer who killed herself”. I was alarmed. Had HarperCollins released such a coarse and incorrect press release? But my concerns were brushed aside. Apparently it was a misunderstanding. Then I was alerted to reading guides published for the posthumous reissue of Autobiography Of A Face, with Ann’s afterword. One of the questions for discussion concerned my mother’s parenting skills. I cried almost incessantly with frustration. It was put down to the work of an inexperienced intern.

Three months before Lucy died, my mother’s depression took on the symptoms of dementia. I felt I had lost her. She had not been well for years – a huge source of sadness to me. Despite the efforts of my sister Sarah and I to help her, she was becoming more frail, more sad, more alone. Our conversations became surreal. Each one sent me deeper into despair. I was grieving for her. I tried to come to terms with the fact that she would never, after all, have the capacity for happiness. When Lucy died, I was already suffocating with loss.

On the morning of the funeral, my mother sat in her wheelchair crying, as she often did, terrified by her own constant fears. Sarah and I hugged her, trying, as we have both done all our lives, to protect her from her overwhelming despair. We have never told her that Lucy is dead.

In the spring of 2003, Ann was working, writing and living in what she described to me as “the Lucy factory”. I thought this was offensive, but didn’t say. She mentioned film rights. I was living in frightening and unfamiliar territory. For whom was this suffocating grief I felt? For my mother? For Lucy? The sadness that Lucy’s many other friends wrote about addressed only a tiny fraction of the tragedy my family had experienced. I envied the precision of their grief. How easy to focus on just one chapter of the intertwined lives of my father, dead at 57 from pancreatitis; my eldest brother, a schizophrenic, dead following a car accident in Nevada; my little sister, dead; my mother, subject to the idle scrutiny of book clubs across America, invited by those reading guides to judge her worth as a parent.

I’d had a framed photograph of Lucy for many years, which I loved. The only word I can think of to describe it is honest. I had loved it while she was alive, for the texture of her skin, for the closeness of her teeth, for a quality of nearness that made me feel if I looked at it long enough, she would blink. Now I looked at it and thought, who is this person? A public person, with a “legacy”, with “work”, by which we felt obliged to do the right thing. But what was the right thing? My husband said he could gauge my mood by whether he found the photograph hanging on the wall or hidden behind the chest of drawers in the spare room.

I was incapacitated with confusion. I felt, without being able to express it, that it was somehow indecent to risk laying my family bare for the sake of Ann’s personal expression of grief. I was afraid that with the publication of her book, there might be more inexperienced interns, another set of unsavoury reading guides, another reason for people to ask, “But where was Lucy’s mother?”

I wished that Ann would not publish the book. I admired and had defended her need to write as an artist, but I hoped she would finish it off, for herself, and put it under the bed. I’d have preferred her to work with a smaller publisher, one with less of a publicity machine than HarperCollins. That she’d ask for no publicity. I wanted her to wait until my mother was dead.

She felt it was her right, even her obligation, to write the book, and that it had to be HarperCollins because that was her publisher.

One evening before that conversation, when Ann was in London, we had walked arm in arm after dinner towards Notting Hill Gate. I told her I believed that Lucy, dead and thus completely free of the worldly obstacles of vanity and rivalry, would want us to console each other. I knew that Lucy, stripped down to the essence of sister and daughter, would want us to be happy together. Ann disagreed – she felt that Lucy would still be jealous of our developing friendship. It was almost as if she was excited by the idea.

Ann and I have not been in touch for some time. She offered a sum in exchange for permission to use Lucy’s letters to her in Truth & Beauty. Sarah and my brother Nicholas felt it was fair, a contribution towards the burden of my mother’s care – she was living in sheltered accommodation paid for by Sarah and me. I told them to do what they felt was right.

My sister Lucy was a uniquely gifted writer. Ann, not so gifted, is lucky to be able to hitch her wagon to my sister’s star. I wish Lucy’s work had been left to stand on its own.

There is a memory, one of thousands, that I would like to keep of Lucy. She is walking with my mother and me in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, near where my mother lived for many years. It is a warm and humid early evening, and I am taking photographs of them in a graveyard, trying to be arty. Lucy is wearing shorts, my mother a white linen shirt. One picture is of Lucy’s back and my mother’s face. Another is of my mother’s back and Lucy’s face. The one picture that I can’t focus on quickly enough is when they both turn to look at me, laughing, their foreheads nearly touching.

Why is that memory so elusive? Because it is so precious? Because it is mine alone, one that I don’t have to share with the hundreds of thousands of total strangers who think they understand Lucy through Ann Patchett’s personal vantage point?

Truth & Beauty has enhanced Ann’s reputation as a writer, though many have questioned the speed with which she published it, and the validity of exposing Lucy’s frailties, not apparent in Autobiography Of A Face. I’m sorry I stood by as this happened.

My sister Sarah and I have been travelling too long in the land of grief, and we would like to come home, to prop our pictures on the mantelpiece and to get on with our lives. But there is the book: what can we do with a grief thief?

UPDATE: I did go on to read Truth & Beauty. My review is HERE.


65 Responses

  1. […] it! Suellen Grealy, sist… on Review: Autobiography of a Fa…Anna on Looking for Book Recommendatio…Natasha @ Maw […]

    • “My sister Lucy was a uniquely gifted writer. Ann, not so gifted, is lucky to be able to hitch her wagon to my sister’s star.”

      Ann Patchett is an amazing writing. What an odd, unkind think for Lucy’s sister to say.

      And if Lucy’s sister wanted to keep the memory of the photo she took of Lucy and their mother private, why didn’t she?

      • What Lucy’s sister is saying is true. The only book by Ann Patchett that I’ve read is Truth and Beauty and it’s awful.

        I am sorry I read it and in a way it ruined Autobiography of a Face for me. I recommend that people who want to learn about Lucy go directly to the source.

        Anne wrote the book to meet her own needs, in horrible violation of Lucy’s legacy as well as truth itself. It’s bad writing filled with tasteless TMI such as a moment where Lucy blows her nose and then somebody (I think Ann’s boyfriend) studies the ‘contents.’

        Just because a moment like that took place doesn’t mean you can put it in a book and call it “TRUTH”. And that’s just a small example – the whole book is awful and Lucy’s sister’s jab is actually extremely restrained.

        BTW, I read that Ann Patchett has never read Suellen Grealy’s article. This from a woman who purports to speak the truth? What kind of truth-seeker is that?

    • I have read both Grealy’s and Patchett’s books, both of which are remarkable and insightful.

      TO LUCY’S SISTER: What is this ridiculous article you have written at the expense of your sister’s death, her friend’s publication, and your mother’s depression. What exactly are you trying to do; steal your grief back from Ann? Let me just point a few things out to you:

      1) THE WAY THE WORLD VIEWS YOUR MOTHER has absolutely nothing to do with Ann Patchett’s book “Truth and Beauty”. Lucy, yes, Lucy, your dear sister who unfortunately passed away, is responsible for the way the world perceives your mother. Ann is responsible for the way she perceives the relationship Lucy had with your mother. They go hand-in-hand. Maybe you’re afraid of accepting the truth… that your mother made mistakes as a parent (as every parent inevitably does). Your mother isn’t going to slip into any more of a depression than she already has just because of a book Ann wrote. If she should get upset with any book that reveals her role as parent to Lucy and siblings then it should be at Autobiography of a Face.

      2) THE “GRIEF THIEF” IS NOT ANN. If anyone should be labeled a thief it is the person or persons that took Lucy’s belongings without permission. Yes, Ann did write a book about her relationship with Lucy, but not to steal anyone’s grief. ASK YOURSELF this: if Ann should have died of a heroin overdose instead of Lucy, and if Lucy were still alive today insted of Ann, do you think Lucy would have written her own book about her friendship with Ann? I think most people would agree that she would, because Lucy expressed herself best through her writing (hence the letters, the poetry, the short essays, her Autobiography of a Face).

      3) ANN’S BOOK IS NOT A PUBLICATION SEEKING THE SPOTLIGHT. Not to put myself on the same level of critical cruelty as you are on, do you think that maybe it is you who is trying to reap the spotlight of a writing through this seemingly well thought out article describing your “grief”? Is it possible that maybe you are jealous of the relationship Ann had with your sister? It is obvious in Truth and Beauty that Ann was probably one of the most improtant aspects of her life that brought her great inspiration and a sense of love that others, including yourself, could not and, therefore, did not.

      I think both writers, Grealy and Patchett, were remarkably talented writers(it is obivous by their levels of education and academic/published recognitions). Everyone deserves a chance to experience their grief for the loss of a loved one in their own personal way. When reading Grealy’s book, I perceived her in one way… a way that wasn’t very humorous or happy or full of joy in any sense of the word. In readings Ann’s book, I found myself laughing and even surprised at Lucy’s witt and charm, and the unimaginable number friends she had. It was incredibly uplifting to know that Lucy’s life was filled with so much joy because she never let her readers in on that joy in her own book. Anyone can see that Ann is trying to express her love for Lucy in this book, her admiration and, yes, her grief. As I mentioned before, I believe Lucy would have done the same. Anyone who doesn’t believe that, including you Suellen, is a moron. I appologise for being so upfront about my opinions, but you are out of line. I am sure you will say the same in regards to me, but I am not the one who trashing a fantastic book that my sister would have loved. I mean, c’mon, you didn’t even think Lucy would be jealous of your blooming relationship with Ann. What does that say about what you really knew about your sister? Just think about this all before you get upset and post another article about my response to yours. Think about what your sister would have believed and what your sister would have wanted. If you are still convinced otherwise, then I am genuinely sorry for my oppinions; however, I will stand by them.

      • @Kendra I will admit that my aunt Suellen is a woman who has many faults. After the death of Lucy she didn’t talk to us for years and years. However you have no right to go and talk shit about her. You didn’t know Lucy you read her book. My Aunt grew up with her and knew her for years. She may say that Ann was a better sister than she was but that doesn’t change the fact that she was still her sister. Blood is thicker than water. I also thought you should know that the Mother you are talking shit about, my grandmother, is dead and has been for many years. You deserve no opinion of the situation. While I do in fact agree on some points it dosen’t change that fact that your just a reader. Right or wrong is not for you to decide. Now go piss off.

  2. I never did read Bel Canto. I opened it once and just couldn’t get into it. I’m disturbed at this article. I don’t know if I’ll ever want to pick up an Ann Prachett book now. Her actions seem very disrespectful to me. Surely she could have at least waited a while before publishing the book? Why was it so hasty?

  3. Wow. I haven’t read Autobiography of a Face or any of Ann Patchett’s work. That is a beautifully written letter by someone who is clearly in a great deal of pain. It certainly makes me hesitant to read further. I wonder if Ann Patchett or HarperCollins will respond.

  4. What a sad situation. I’ve heard good things about both books but this letter makes me think twice about reading Truth and Beauty. Without Ann’s point of view though, we really don’t know what her motivation was in writing the book. Maybe it started off as a testament to her own grief but then turned into something else.

  5. wow. wow. i am very intrigued by this. i did not think bel canto was that great. i was very surprised by all the raves about it. i have yet to read auto of the face b/c i need to be in the right mindset as i believe it will be a hard read. however i do not plan on reading truth and beauty. thank you for this very interesting information.

    as for harper, i worked for them, and trust me it is all about the bottom line, if it is going to make money they will do it.

  6. I don’t get it.

    Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy were good friends. The article says Patchett was like a “sister” to Lucy and supported her on many levels.

    The family told her she could use Lucy’s letters. They took money from her. From the article I can’t tell if they even really told her they didn’t want her to publish the book. It seems like maybe Suellen asked her to downplay the book or shop it to another publisher, but as a prize-winning author could Patchett even make that choice?

    The reading guide question has nothing to do with Patchett as far as I can tell. I’m not sure why that is included in this article.

    Really I just have sooooo many questions about this. I could go on and on, but I will stop now.

  7. This is so intriguing. I think I’ll echo a lot of what Rachel said because although Lucy’s sister is obviously upset about the book, how could it have happened. I know she was grieving but didn’t she and other sister discuss the implications? How horrible though to now feel like the only legacy of your sister is a book that doesn’t give a fair portrayal of her. Very interesting….

    Oh and I did read Bel Canto and didn’t like it so add me to that very tiny group 🙂

  8. I wasn’t sure I was going to comment, but after reading Rachel’s and iliana’s comments, I think I will.

    I think Lucy opened her mother up to criticism, not HarperCollins, and certainly not Ann Patchett. Sure, an intern created a question about Lucy’s mother’s parenting, but didn’t Lucy put that information out there in the first place?

    I keep going back to the fact that Lucy wrote the first book. She wanted to be in the limelight. If she didn’t want her situation, her disfigurement and all its implications, to be discussed, then why did she write the book?

    I certainly understand the family’s grief, but I think it’s misplaced. I was sad to see that the acceptance I thought Lucy found is something she was still struggling with. To me, that is the sad part, not her disfigurement. I’m not saying it would have been easy for Lucy to find that acceptance within herself. But it’s very sad she had turned to drugs.

  9. Autobiography of a face by Lucy has stuck with me for many years. I read Truth and Beauty because of my connection to the writing of AOAF. Truly, I can’t remember much of it except thinking it was a great story about friendship, and Lucy’s need for attention/acceptance in contrast to Ann’s steady hand. Of course, she was the author.

    Having lost a sister myself this year, I can say that every person’s picture of her was the same, but also very different. You never know how someone touches someone else.

  10. I have to agree with Trish on this one. I haven’t read Bel Canto but I have read Truth & Beauty and I think it’s a beautiful book. I can’t compare Ann’s talents to Lucy’s (as I haven’t read Lucy’s book), but to say that Ann is “not so gifted” and is “lucky to be able to hitch her wagon to [Lucy’s] star” is not only patently untrue but also sounds petty and mean. I also have to question the line: “I realised how easy it was for Lucy simply to select her vantage point. I learned, too, how easily readers would accept it as the only true vantage point.” How else is Lucy supposed to write her autobiography, if not from her own vantage point? And yes, unfortunately, readers may accept her vantage point as the only true vantage point (although surely some of us realize that her point of view is just that, her point of view, and not necessarily the Truth, with a capital T). I’m sorry for this family’s losses, but I do feel that Suellen is being unfair to both Lucy and Ann. And I certainly think that Ann’s book deserves to be read and judged on its own merits.

  11. grief is a strange thing and unfortunately people respond in ways that can hurt others.

  12. I told my husband about all this and he said well,what do they expect (the family) if she’s close friends with a high-profile author? In his opinion, of course the book will be biased, and the family is overreacting. He did agree with me that it was unfortunate some of Lucy’s belongings were taken by friends before the family was able to go through them, but suggested that perhaps she’d been closer to those friends in her final days than to her family… I really don’t know.

  13. quite a different perspective, but everyone has a unique filter, no? and with grief comes natural feelings of guilt – perhaps from not being able to “deal” with L during her life.
    i would also say the order/timing in which you have read the books makes a huge difference. having read t&b first, i was disgusted at lucy’s selfishness….only after having read autob of a face was i able to better understand. but i would still say t&b is worth a read.

  14. Suellen Grealy draws a parallel between her own grief and that of the Muslim family–that’s hardly a fair comparison. Did the Muslim family take payment and give permission for their elderly relative’s body to be covered in bacon? If so, that would make Suellen Grealy’s comparison a little more reasonable.

    I have to wonder what exactly is Suellen Grealy’s beef? Is she upset because she feels Ann Patchett cashed in before Suellen had her own chance?

    Even if what Ann Patchett wrote in TRUTH AND BEAUTY was disrespectful and/or untrue, that would not change or tarnish Suellen’s memories of Lucy unless Suellen ALLOWED it to!

    Having read Patchett’s book, I can say that I did not find it at all disrespectful, and as far as the truthfulness of it, if what is written IS untrue, there are legal actions Grealy can take. Strangely enough (or maybe not so strangely), Grealy makes no mention of any untruths in Patchett’s book.

    As for the timing, maybe Miss Grealy doesn’t understand that her sister’s death and Patchett’s article would be front-page news to New York magazine, but is that Ann Patchett’s fault? Wikipedia shows Lucy Grealy’s death as being December 18, 2002, and Amazon shows a publication date for TRUTH AND BEAUTY of May 11, 2004. This period of about a year and a half hardly seems disrespectful to Lucy’s memory.

    Most of us have lost loved ones, so I do sympathize with the grief Suellen Grealy feels, but she does not engender much sympathy by referring to her sister as “uniquely gifted” and Ann Patchett as “not so gifted.” Statements like that make it seem as if Suellen Grealy’s REAL aim is to publicly attack Ann Patchett, not get on with her private grieving.

    For the record, I too am among those who found BEL CANTO over-rated.

  15. Tony, I can see your point. I guess because I just came off the experience of reading Auto. of a Face, I feel almost as if I know Lucy, and I’m feeling very protective of her (and by extension, her family). My knee jerk reaction probably isn’t fair. I suppose if I were a Patchett fan, I’d feel as if Suellen’s reaction to Truth and Beauty wasn’t fair either.

  16. Lisa, I remember reading a short blurb about the reaction of Lucy’s family to *Truth and Beauty* (a few years ago), but I hadn’t read the Guardian article until now.

    It is a very sad situation, there’s no doubt about that.

    I haven’t read either *Autobiography of a Face* or *Truth and Beauty*, so I can’t give an opinion on the works. I wonder if Patchett’s account of her relationship with Lucy Grealy is corroborated by other people (? )

  17. Just to be clear, I am not a big fan of Ann Patchett’s work, but neither do I consider her a “hack”! I did enjoy THE MAGICIAN’S ASSISTANT.
    Happy Halloween, all!

  18. I read and enjoyed Bel Canto and yes, I’m an Ann Patchett fan now. Recently I purchased Truth and Beauty and was absorbed in the story. It was a touching, loving account of a friendship. It was harsh and uncomfortable at points (just like life). But my sense of it is as a genuine tribute to a beloved (and imperfect and human) friend. What it did for me was make me want to know more about Lucy. I’m now looking for “Autobiography of a Face” because I want to meet Lucy and see the world from her perspective too. Ann introduced me to this unique woman and I will always appreciate that.

    I too would like to hear what her other close friends think about the book. Just to get that view as well.

    The grieving and pain that Lucy’s family is experiencing will be there, with or without Ann’s book, and I feel for them and for their loss.

  19. I had never heard of either Lucy or Ann before my friend told me to read “Truth and Beauty.” Having just finished the book last night I decided to poke around on the internet to learn more about each of them. I was surprised to find this article written by Lucy’s sister.

    I thought Ann’s book was a beautiful love story between two best friends. An account of their special relationship with each other. The book was very emotional for me because it reminded me of my own co-dependency with my best friend. It portrays the highs and the lows of loving and being loved so closely by someone.

    I understand that Lucy’s sister has every right to feel the way she feels. We cannot control our emotions, just our actions. It just pains me to think that what I perceived to be a story about two friends supporting each other in life has now been tainted with the idea of money and greed.

    Please read the book, I can assure you that there is love and respect behind this story.

  20. I first read Patchett’s Truth and Beauty and then Lucy’s Autobiography. compelled to read the latter because of the former. And I was drawn to this sister’s comments because of both books. Surely within each family, each individual (parent and children) have different perspectives of family life, the experiences and the personalities involved. I cannot imagine what it is like to have some (much?)of this laid bare in the public domain, free for others to write about, adding another layer to the exposure. I feel honored to have come across all of what I have read, and do not feel compelled to read more. The remaining Grealy’s are entitled to their privacy, I believe Patchett’s career will veer off in another direction, and Lucy’s works remain for others to discover and react to at will…I was an 8th grade English teacher and had a student, a young man, who was, I think more disfigured than Lucy. His life was as hard as hers, less joyful I think, and he too has died. In my classroom students were tolerant; I doubt they were in the lunchroom. Lucy and Ann Patchett have given me much to recall, to think about, in terms of beauty and truth I remain grateful to have read them, and to have had the young man as a student.

  21. I’ve just started reading Truth and Beauty and my curiosity about Lucy led me to poke around on the web. I was surprised by Suellen’s response to Ann’s book, for reasons well stated by others here. But the most striking thing to me was her last line: “but where is the book: what can you do with a grief thief?”

    I find this completely baffling. No one, NO ONE can steal one person’s grief. This one statement, for me, clarifies everything else in Suellen’s essay — she is bitter because Ann published her memoir of Lucy first. But is Suellen even a writer?

    Grief, sadly, cannot be hoarded or stolen.

  22. I bought Truth & Beauty because I like Ann Patchett’s writing. I had never heard of Lucy Grealy until then, and I have not read her Autobiography, but looking at old interviews on YouTube I can see why she had such an impact on her audience. Truth & Beauty is about Anne’s love for Lucy; there is almost no mention of Lucy’s sisters or other family and perhaps that’s why Suellen found it so painful. I don’t know if they were close or not, but the Lucy Patchett describes is engaging and enraging, loving and jealous – it seems as if Suellen is more like her late sister than she realises.

  23. I’ve read Truth & Beauty and found it to be an inspirational book. Because of Ms. Patchett’s book, I’ve now purchased Autobiography of a Face and have encouraged my previous best friend to read also. Ms. Patchett’s relationship with Ms. Grealy should be read; should be loved and should be cherished. The book isn’t about Ms. Grealy’s addiction but more of how she overcame many obstacles throughout her life. Sad that she’s gone now; but decisions were made and her life was sacrificed because of those decisions.

  24. I loved both Autobiography of a Face and Truth and Beauty and read the article after I read the books too in 2007 or so. I feel sympathy for Lucy’s family–it is very exposing, but the truth is, the portrait fashioned by Patchett of Lucy is who she was–isn’t that kind of the why the title of Patchett’s book is so appropriate?

  25. I just finished reading Truth and Beauty. I picked it up because I enjoyed both Run and and Bel Canto, but I had not heard of Lucy Grealy before.

    Truth and Beauty was beautifully written – the story of an extraordinary friendship. I do not understand Suellen’s bitterness to be perfectly honest. Ann Patchett wrote about her relationship with Lucy Grealy and what she felt and feels. How someone feels is can’t be disputed by anyone else. I don’t quite understand how either persons feelings can be devalued.

  26. I have read this book twice and only after the first reading looked up both Lucy and Ann on the internet. As many have said about Lucy’s sister’s letter that was published in the Guardian, this story was about nothing other than the love shared between two best friends. The only overwhelming feeling you get while reading Ann’s memoir of her friendship with Lucy was overwhelming love and devotion to one another. I have no doubt that the Grealy family is still greiving over the loss of Lucy, however, the truth does hurt sometimes. And the facts are that no one was closer or more connected to Ann and to Lucy than they were to one another. To a sister, this most certainly would hurt. However, the book is excellent and gives a very clear and defined description of love, unyielding dedication and true friendship.

  27. I thought “Truth and Beauty” was a very bland memior at the beginning, but then it got very interesting and I enjoyed reading this novel. I think the sister is just jealous, because she is not as close to Lucy as Ann.

  28. 1. The personal issues: It’s good that Suellen Grealy wrote this article so that we can know some of the complex, important feelings she and her family bear; so that we can in some small way, understand their grief, and so that we who have read the books can achieve a more balanced view of these creative women.
    2. The artistic issues: the art itself (in this case, the books) exist independently from the artist/author. Ultimately, the books stand alone on their own literary merits. From this vantage point, the books have “lives of their own.”
    3. Specific to “Truth and Beauty,” I learned more negative lessons than positive ones about friendship and devotion. Many times, being supportive was almost the same as being an “enabler” of bad habits and bad behavior, and love and pity are too close for comfort. Neither woman consistently brought out the best in the other.

    It is a sad loss that we will know no more of the creative talent of Lucy.
    I also believe; however, that it would be a mistake to vilify Ann Patchett–her art must stand or fall on its own merits.

  29. One of my oldest and dearest friends sent me both Truth and Beauty and Autobiography of a Face to read and we have a deep, true friendship which is rare. Ann and Lucy I believe had one too. I don’t know about any one else, but I tell my close girlfriends alot more personal stuff about myself than my two sisters! There is a bond between two close friends that is hard to understand if you do not have that. I am going to have to say that I believe Suellen was probably a tad jealous of the connection the two women had with each other. I have read The Patron Saints of Liars and will be reading Bel Canto after I finish Truth and Beauty (100 pages to go) – then I will tackle Autobiography…..I say tackle because I do believe Lucy was not easy to deal with in alot of areas in her life. Because of what the cancer did to her face, she took advantage of certain circumstances with her friend. Everyone in life has a challenge they are given – mine is that my husband and I have two special needs boys who are now in their twenties but let me tell you… was not always easy and still is not but you get by….you do what you have to do. I think Lucy did what she had to do and Ann happened to witness alot of it. I love the book and wish Ann only good things in life.

  30. I just finished Truth & Beauty and found it to be a touching, honest, beautiful story of a friendship from one perspective. I loved both Ann and Lucy by the book’s end. I was stunned to read the sister’s critique. I realize that Suellen was in pain, but I found her comments to be so bitter, jealous, and self-serving. It was cruel for her to criticize Ann’s writing skills. It seems to me that Suellen was “blaming the messenger” when she disagreed with Ann’s perspective. I hope that time has softened her anger and opened her heart.

  31. […] I couldn’t wait to read more about Lucy, but then I quickly changed my mind when I discovered Lucy’s family’s reaction to the […]

  32. […] I couldn’t wait to read more about Lucy, but then I quickly changed my mind when I discovered Lucy’s family’s reaction to the […]

  33. […] I couldn’t wait to read more about Lucy, but then I quickly changed my mind when I discovered Lucy’s family’s reaction to the […]

  34. I met Mrs. Patchett during Spring Term 2009 here at Northwest Florida State College. After having read Bel Canto as assigned in my English Comp. II class, I purchased Truth and Beauty, Run, and Lucy’s Autiobiography of a Face. Before reading Bel Canto, I had absolutely no desire to pick up a book, and can count only one book that I have willingly read throughout my life (I will be 30 years old next month). Ann Patchett reached me on a level that no one ever has and I am thankful that she has opened up this whole new world for me! I am also thankful that, through her, I “met” Lucy, and so wished to have had the opportunity to have met her as well. Thank you Ann.

  35. I’ve had mixed feelings about Truth and Beauty, but have concluded that this book is keeping Lucy alive in our minds and hearts. I read Autobiography of a
    Face long ago, which introduced me to this talented, complex and amazing young woman. Her book made me want to know more, want to see her pictures and be closer to her. Then, many, many various reads later, there she was again… bigger than life!! I lost myself in Truth and Beauty, once more seeking anything I could find about her on the net. Finally, an actual, live interview appeared, where I could see and hear her… even note her nervously dabbing her chin after sipping water. She will come to life for many new readers, and they will probably want to read her book as well.

  36. Exactly! =)

  37. I have just finished reading Truth and Beauty. First, I would like to acknowledge Lucy’s family and their grief, for it is a terrible thing to lose a sister, a daughter. But Ann’s book was necessary in order to more clearly understand the complex nature of the author of Autobiography. It was an open, honest and elegant memoir, and it was clearly written with love. Furthermore, it is an important book, allowing Lucy’s fans the rare opportunity to see the face behind the veil. Suellen Grealy would be surprised to know that despite Ann’s torrid revelations, it is no less beautiful than it was before.

  38. I am yet to read Truth and Beauty but this letter from Lucy Grealy’s sister confirms my view that it is always difficult to write about aspects of and situations in one’s own life without writing about other people and in the process bashing up against those who have a different perspective, as is the case for Lucy Grealy’s sister.
    Grief is a personal matter. We all deal with our own grief in different ways. Ann Patchett’s attempt to deal with her grief at the loss of her friend, including perhaps through the writing of her book to me is a fair thing, as is Suellen Grealy’s attempt to deal with her grief over her sister’s death through writing her letter here.
    The trouble lies in the attempt of one to silence the other.
    As the theorist on life writing Paul John Eakin writes, ‘autobiographers lead perilous lives’. Ann Patchett demonstrates this.

  39. I have both books and just read Truth & Beauty–I have not read Autobiography of a Face, but at this point I doubt that I will. Truth & Beauty bothered me–if Ann’s love for her friend was real and true, then why portray her in such a negative light–even if it is the truth–why publish it for the world to read after her death? The only reason I can come up with is financial gain. As for the writing, I think Ann Patchett did a decent job of writing this but I didn’t notice anything outstanding (I’ve not read her other books). But in a letter to Ann, Lucy Grealy encourages her to “SEW her wild oats”! SEW, not “sow”. This blatant and fundamental mistake doesn’t scream, “award-winning writer” to me, sorry.

    Perhaps I should have read Lucy’s book first. But since she was so unlikable in Truth & Beauty, I am not compelled to even read it all.

  40. I feel bad for the readers who read Ms. Patchetts junk first, as I understand she has an “inside” look at what she thinks about Lucy, but sacrificed truth for financial gain.

    I just finished Autobiography of a face yesterday, as a required reading for my college class. I was very impressed with Lucy’s writing style, and as someone who knew nothing about her, I felt a definite connection with her and her struggles.

    I’m sad to hear that Ann Patchett wrote such negative things about Lucy, ESPECIALLY, if she did not mean them. Like it was said, she published it quickly and in an blatant effort to ride “on lucy’s star”…

    Do not let Ann’s book scare you away from Autobiography of a face. It is a well written book, that shows the struggle someone feels to fit in, while hoping she will “always look better”.

    After reading this comment, and thinking a little bit, I feel terribly saddened for Lucy’s sister, and honestly Lucy’s mom. Having Lost her husband, lost a daughter, had a son with mental problems and another daughter who died in a car crash…The whole family, despite becoming somewhat famous (as we just read an article she wrote) this family has been through a lot of tragic times, and I question anyone hoping to deflate them farther for the sake of selling a few more books and making a little more money.

  41. Unless Josh has read Ann Patchett’s book himself, I think it is unfair to judge it’s quality simply on the basis of hearsay.

    Ann Patchett’s writing is exquisite and although people might object to Patchett’s decision to write about her friend, to call the finished product junk, is judgemental and I think inaccurate.

    I’ve nearly finished reading Patchett’s Truty and Beauty and it seems to me, like her fiction, it’s also a beautifully written book and one that is deeply sympathetic to its subject, however much Lucy Grealy’s sister and family might have strong negative feelings against a different perspective offered on their beloved Lucy.

    I have also read Autobiography of a Face and it too is a beautiful book. As far as I can see there is nothing in Lucy’s own account of her life that contradicts her friend’s story.

    Each story is told from a different perspective and will therefore serve to offer different views, and different emphases, just as Lucy’s sister’s perspective will also offer another view.

    I recommend that people read Janet Malcolm’s book on the poets, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, The Silent Woman, to get a deeper insight into how our impressions on the lives of people can be broadened by different interpretations on those same lives from many different angles.

    There have been multiple biographies written on Plath and Hughes. There are also several autobiographical accounts in the form of poetry. There is also the recoded testimony of family and friends. All these differing perspectives, each one of them valuable in their own right, leave readers free to make up their own minds. then there are more perspectives yet again from readers and their multiple and diverse interpretations of meaning.

    In the end, I object to anyone trashing a book on the basis of hearsay without actually reading the book and without reading it with a mind that is not completely shut down in its prejudice. I wonder were Lucy Grealy alive today how she would view this furor. I have a feeling she might be more sympathetic to Ann Patchett’s position than all these detractors on line suggest.

  42. I read T&B several years ago, and finally got around to reading AoaF. The fact is, Lucy’s writing was not that great, in my opinion — too many adjectives, poor grammar, split infinitives, etc. — and her philosophical insights were jejeune (and, we learn later, not even true — especially the big one: I can start living my real life now). On the other hand, I haven’t read anything of Ann’s except T&B and am not tempted to. I didn’t like the person she appeared to be in T&B, nor am I interested in the things she writes about.

    I just read Suellen Grealy’s essay and am puzzled. For instance, why bring up the missing painting? She almost seems to imply that Ann might have taken it , but Ann wasn’t there. I suppose the idea is to convey the “missingness” of the “real Lucy” that only her family had the right to possess. But this is absurd. Lucy herself wanted the world to know her. Suellen wanted Ann to wait to publish the book until their mother is dead. But the family has never told their mother that Lucy is dead. She pities Lucy’s twin having to walk by the publicity for Ann’s book — not Ann’s fault. She dreads “the idle scrutiny” of book clubs, lead by insensitive reading guides (with which Patchett also has nothing to do), criticizing their mother’s parenting. In fact, Lucy is much harder on her mother than Ann, who hardly mentions the woman.

    I don’t question Ann’s motives in publishing T&B as much as I do her friendship with Lucy in the first place. Perhaps Lucy got it right when, in a morphine fog, she told Ann “I let you be a saint, and that’s what you always wanted anyway” (or words to that effect.

    As for the argument that Lucy can’t have been as bad as she seems in T&B or she wouldn’t have had all those friends, I can’t say anything since I didn’t know her. Perhaps someone else will write about her so we understand tthis better.

  43. Personally I read Truth & Beauty and loved it, despite this article. I think we are often very different people with our friends than with our family. It is very possible Lucy was everybit the person Ann described in her book. And, it could be just me, but I got the feeling Suellen was kind of hurt that Ann rebuffed her attempts at friendship.

  44. I have read Truth and Beauty and its a wonderful book about love and devotion that two friends can have for one another through years of sucess and difficulty. Ann and Lucy were both free to just be themselves around each other knowing that regardless of their shortcomings each would love the other no matter what.. I loved the book. Both women are gifted, intellectual wonderful writers.

  45. I recently read Autobiography of a Face and loved it. Lucy Grealy has a wonderful use of language and I enjoyed and was deeply moved by the book. I have yet to read Truth and Beauty, and I’m not sure that I want to, because I do not wish to damage the positive, though fragile, image of Lucy that I have. My opinion on Patchett’s decision to write the book is that while she had every right to do so, as one of Lucy’s closest friends, she seems to have gone too far in some respects. Why include extremely negative parts of Lucy’s life that not only do not add to the novel, but only create a rather negative image of someone just after their untimely death? Grealy made the decision not to include information about her drug addictions in her own book, and perhaps Patchett could have done the same for Lucy and left parts of that out. If Patchett claims that she and Lucy were like sisters, then perhaps she could have written her in a more positive light in her novel.
    As for Suellen, I agree with her in some parts of her article– for instance that Ann’s book crosses the line between what should be kept private and what should be allowed to be public. However, I agree with those who say that Suellen included irrelevant details for no apparent reason. To this, I believe that it was a way for her to vent her grief and anger. Ann’s book has obviously upset her, and this was her way of dealing with it– just as Truth and Beauty was Ann’s way of dealing with Lucy’s death.

    • @Kate: “My opinion on Patchett’s decision to write the book is that while she had every right to do so, as one of Lucy’s closest friends, she seems to have gone too far in some respects. Why include extremely negative parts of Lucy’s life that not only do not add to the novel, but only create a rather negative image of someone just after their untimely death?”

      First of all, it’s not a novel. Lucy’s book is closer to a novel: when someone asks her in T&B “How did you remember all that dialogue? All those incidents and feelngs?” she replies “I didn’t remember it. I wrote it. I’m a writer.” In other words, she embellished, reconstructed, and so forth, as that’s what writers do in order to make a story. That is why Ann put “Truth” in her title. It’s ironic because her truth is no more so than Lucy’s, even if she tried harder to remember rather than to “write”.

      “Grealy made the decision not to include information about her drug addictions in her own book, and perhaps Patchett could have done the same for Lucy and left parts of that out. If Patchett claims that she and Lucy were like sisters, then perhaps she could have written her in a more positive light in her novel.:

      Hmm, now why would Lucy not have included information about being a craven drug addict in her book? Maybe because it would have undercut the message of the book, which is that “Despite my face, I’ve reclaimed my own identity from the gaze of the world.” She didn’t, though. Ann needed to point this out if her book was to make any sense at all. Lucy was tormented throughout her life by her face and by people’s reactions to it, regardless of her denials. If Ann wanted readers to understand anything at all, it had to be that. The drug addiction is hardly unique or scandalous and simply indicates that Lucy’s story was just that, a story. “Truth” is ironic, and so is “Beauty”: when the world’s thugs and yahoos didn’t see Lucy’s beauty, Ann always did. (Lucy may not have been addicted when Autobiography of a Face was published, actuallly.)

      As for writing Lucy in a “more positive light”, if you’d read the book you would find that she could hardly have done that. She couldn’t have written a more radiantly glowing portrait.

      “As for Suellen, I agree with her in some parts of her article– for instance that Ann’s book crosses the line between what should be kept private and what should be allowed to be public.”

      How do you know this if you haven’t read the book? And what is this “line”, anyway? I can’t believe someone is seriously suggesting that a memoir of a friendship should leave out all negative elements in order not to upset remaining family or to respect privacy. Lucy’s drug addiction was no secret to anyone who knew her personally — in fact, if she’d lived, she would undoubtedly have written about it herself. Also as a story with a happy ending.

      • Definition of craven in English:


        Contemptibly lacking in courage; cowardly.

        Referring to Lucy Grealy as a craven drug addict seems to be extremely judgemental.

        Who are you to judge her courage or the lack thereof?

        My understanding (correct me if I’m wrong) is that she first became addicted to Oxy-Contin after corrective surgery in the UK, which led to her heroin addiction. Unfortunately, this happens all too often to those undergoing extremely painful (physically & psychologically) surgeries and medical treatment. When they can no longer be prescribed the pain medication, which is EXTREMELY addictive, they desperately turn to whatever is most readily available. Sadly, in Lucy’s case, it seems to have been heroin.

  46. @Jack Grealy: grow up and finish high school before you embarrass yourself any further by posting childish nonsense which will still be here long after you learn to be ashamed of it.

    Writers only exist because of readers and critics with their opinions. Writers publish to get an audience which will have strong opinions. You may someday hear of a poet called Emily Dickinson who did not do this. Though she was one of America’s greatest poets, she only published a handful of poems in her lifetime. Most of her poems were published after her death by her family, who discovered her manuscripts carefully hidden away. Even then they were heavily edited and not published as written until the 1950s. Dickinson had become a recluse in later life. Now there is a woman of whom one might say “we don’t know her” despite the 1800+ poems and hundreds of letters and other writings. Yet we still have a right to opinions about her writing and her life, and biographers have a right to do research and to speculate. The more details, the better.

    Although Dickinson did not choose to be, or was not successful in being known in her lifetime as a poet, she wrote about her writing, asked for opinions on it, valued it, preserved it, tried to publish more of it, and would undoubtedly be glad it is known today. Lucy — an attention seeker with few boundaries — was the polar opposite of Emily. Lucy made herself available to the world and loved fame and its accompaniments. You can’t achieve even Lucy’s modest, brief fame without relentless effort. So, rest assured that Lucy wanted to be known — wanted people’s “opinions” about her. More so than most people, in fact.

    Even if she hadn’t, though, Ann Patchett had every right to tell her own story about Lucy, and readers have an equal right to opinions about both stories and both women. If Lucy’s writing continues to be admired, although she did very little of it (like most writers, she much preferred “being a writer” to writing; her sensational material helped overcome this), there will be biographies. Ann Patchett’s book will be a primary source for information about Lucy’s life. Maybe SueEllen will have a chance to put out her version in more depth as well. So, best get used to it.

    Final fact: you can’t libel the dead. Think about that for a while. About why it is so.

    By the way, if the family has copyright to Lucy’s writing, keep that active. If you’re going to suffer from “grief thieves” you might as well be continue to be compensated as long as possible.

    One last, general note: the reason Ann’s boyfriend looked at the “contents” of Lucy’s tissue when she blew her nose was to see if she had an infection. He was a doctor. It was a relevant detail to the story: was she sick, how sick was she, was she blowing her nose because of drugs, etc.

    • Attacking what someone has written based on spelling, typing or grammatical errors is unfair. One’s opinion is still valuable no matter HOW they write. He had as much of a right as ANYONE to express his feelings on the subject, being a member of Lucy’s family. You don’t have to agree with them but you don’t have to come off as being superior just because you may have a better command of language, spelling or typing. Sounds like you may the one who has some growing up to do. Ridiculing others is childish.

  47. I just finished Truth and Beauty and while I dont think it was the best book, it certainly seemed like Ann could not have been more loving and supportive of her needy and selfish friend. Many people have lives filled with unbearable hardships but that is no license to be so insensitive to others and demanding of constant love, attention, and reassurance. Whether this was an accurate portrayal or not, if I were Ann I would have left this one sided friendship years ago.

  48. After reading many of these reviews I have to say that I believe many of the people who wrote these are terribly out of line. It is not your responsibility to make judgment over this family who has gone through so much. You did not know Lucy you did not know her mother, her sisters or brothers. You only read her book and a book about her. You only know glimpses of what these people’s relationships are like and lives have been. I’m fairly sure that if someone where to write an article or book which portrayed your mother to be an awful person you would be just as upset as Grealy’s family is. This family has gone through so much, let them grieve in peace. Whether you think Lucy or her mother or Ann or Lucy’s sisters where selfish, if you think of this happening to your family I don’t think you would be so judgmental and hurtful in the things you say.

  49. Perhaps we ought to celebrate the mere existence of such controversy and intrigue about someone who admittedly felt invisible. Call me simple, but I’d like to think she’d be pleased either way.

  50. Although I defended Ann earlier, the more I think about it, the more I think much as Lucy’s sister has expressed – I can understand why Ann wrote this book; I can’t understand why she published it. Coming to terms with a complicated friendship makes sense to me; airing it to the world does not-especially since there doesn’t seem to be any need to ‘set the record straight’ on anything. The book seems more like an exercise in character description, not a revelation that adds to literature or anything than more than Ann’s understanding of herself. A little bit of this does seem like a publisher seeing an opportunity and capitalizing on it. I wonder if Ann saw it as something she had to get past in order to write anything else. Did she get tricked into publishing it? All the book tells me about Ann as a writer is that she’s good at characterizing people and situations; as a person, the book tells me that maybe her judgment isn’t as admirable.

  51. I loved reading Autobiography of a Face, I LOVED it so much, I didn’t want it to end… and for many reasons, I needed to read this book. I have a large scar on my face from a traumatic incident which happened when I was 22, and as a young woman, living life with a disfiguring scar, or worse, this book, Lucy’s words meant so much to me. She was brave, strong, loving, and honest, qualities you don’t find very often in people these days.

    I think of her often, her life, her struggles and her humor, and I don’t know if I’ll ever read another book that is as honest and deep as this one. I recommend it to everyone.

    I also read Ann’s book Truth and Beauty, after reading Autobiography… I believe that Ann truly loved Lucy, perhaps too much. It’s clear to see how that relationship shaped and haunted Ann’s writing, and I have to say that I did enjoy reading this book, if for no other reason then to understand more about Lucy Grealy, who would never write again.

    I believe that Ann felt she was giving Lucy a voice, keeping her alive in some way, by writing her and living with the ghost of Lucy by her side for many years.

    As for Lucy’s family, it was interesting and enlightening to read this article today, by her sister Suellen, several years later. It does give us another perspective on the friendship and the business of writing.

  52. I’ll admit that I am a huge fan of Ann Patchett and read Truth and Beauty in 2 days. It’s a good read for anyone with a long time best friend. In the book, Lucy was portrayed as a difficult woman who felt unworthy of anyone’s friendship due to her disfigurement and put up a snobby wall when Ann tried to befriend her. When Ann proved herself a true friend, however, a wonderful once-in-a-lfetime relationship developed between two talented people. I enjoyed reading about this unique friendship and was surprised to read what Suellen wrote. I think something else is going on in Suellen’s life that is not working out or perhaps she thought she would profit more from Truth and Beauty than she did. It just doesn’t ring true somehow and seems like a form of revenge.

    • I wrote a chapter in my PhD thesis on this topic, in part because of what I perceived to be the elements of revenge involved – my thesis topic: Life writing and the desire for revenge – not just from Suellen but from certain bloggers as well. It seems both books stirred up powerful feelings within the reading community.

  53. […] one of the comments on this blog discussing Suellen’s letter of protest, Jack Grealy, a nephew, writes a comment in which he […]

  54. I know I’m way late here, but how many of you have been “the children left behind” when the parents are so very involved with ONE sick child?
    I’ve been there. No, I don’t feel like a selfish brat when I was invisible because of ONE child with a problem. We raise ourselves.

  55. […] by Ann Patchett | Taking it to the Streets My Ann Patchett project: Truth and Beauty | AlenasLife Sullen Grealy, sister of author Lucy Grealy, is Hijacked by Grief | Books on the Brain Ann Patchett’s Truth and Beauty: A Mixed Bag | Lily Iona […]

  56. I think her sister is entitled to her feelings; as is Ann. What a life to have led; I think the thing to be rembered is how strong Lucy was. How many of us would have gave up? To hide away from the world entirely? I am saddened to hear she has passed. But she lived through something remarkable. Her & her family have been through a lot. I don’t think badly of her mother; I think she did the best she could… Grief is a personal thing; you deal with it how you can, there are no rule books. I only wish Lucy had lived longer, and I sincerely hope that she found ‘love’ while she was alive; I loved her book, it was very captivating and beautifully written. No matter what it is in Ann’s version; my opinion of her will probably not change. She was so strong in ways none of us could ever imagine.

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