I have often heard that most authors are not good audiobook readers. I wonder if memoirists are an exception. In the last year, I have listened to Dick Van Dyke, and Michael Chabon read about their lives and enjoyed their storytelling. In each case, I felt the memoirist was talking with me. I enjoyed the same feeling with Truth and Beauty: A Friendship written and read by Ann Patchett. Having been to two of Patchett's library conferences programs, I expected her reading to be entertaining. Having listened, "entertaining" is not a word I now want to use because the book is so sad. I'd rather say that her reading is mesmerizing.
I did not know the subject of Truth and Beauty when I downloaded it to my old iTouch. I saw it was an older title that I had overlooked. The various library audiobook services to which I have access all seem to have a scarcity of good nonfiction titles to interest me, so I sometimes try books I might otherwise decline. Within minutes of beginning Truth and Beauty, I knew the subject, for I read Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face in 2012. I did not recall that she was Patchett's friend, but friendship was not a focus of that memoir. It was more about alienation, loneliness, and the hardships of cancer and cancer treatment. Patchett's account works as a welcomed continuation of the story.
It has taken me over a week to start writing this review. I am still not exactly sure how I feel about Patchett's role in the story. How can she have been so accommodating to her troubled friend over so many years? Could I have been so generous if a friend continued on a self-destructive path? Did her kindness delay Grealy's ultimate end? Patchett tells the story with little if any analysis. She has left judging for readers, and for that reason, I think her title is a great book for discussions.
Starting the story at a date when Grealy and Patchett shared the same dream as well as the same apartment in Iowa City where they attended the Iowa Writer's Workshop sets us up to compare their fates, much in the way we make similar comparisons in reading The Other Wes Moore. What factors made the differences? I suggest looking at the mothers in both books. What else do you see?
Patchett, Ann. Truth and Beauty: A Friendship. Harper Audio, 2004. 7 compact discs. ISBN 0060755997.