“A Justifying Necessity” In Truth and Beauty, Ann Patchett uses letters from her late friend Lucy Grealy, along with her own writings, to illustrate their friendship over the years since they graduated college together as writers. However, questions are raised, especially by the Grealy family, about whether or not Patchett is justified in presenting only one viewpoint of Lucy. In Suellen Grealy’s article, Hijacked by Grief, Lucy’s sister goes as far as to claim that Patchett is riding on Lucy’s fame and that Patchett provides too narrow of a viewpoint to truthfully represent who Lucy is. This is not Ann Patchett’s intention. As evidenced by her long-standing friendship with Lucy, Patchett’s inclusion of Lucy’s letters is not to ride on her fame, but to help her describe her friend as she knew her; a charismatic, outgoing person who overcame cancer and the related physical deformities by becoming a successful writer, only to be overcome by depression.
Following their graduation from Sarah Lawrence College, Ann and Lucy both travel to Iowa City to live together as they continue their studies to become writers. This is the start of their long and intimate friendship. In the following years they provided food, money, support, and companionship for each other. When they are far away from each other they call, write letters, and send packages to each other. “I got home today to find my St. Lucy medal waiting for me: I have always wanted one of those. Thanks pet: it's just so amazing to me how good you can make me feel, more than anyone else...”(p.52) They support each other when trying to win grants to writers’ workshops, when stuck in meaningless relationships, and when they hit writer’s block. They share grief, sorrow, joy, depression, good times, bad times, triumphs, and failures. They're best friends, and Ann Patchett successfully conveys this in her book by using her own recollection of the events supported by Lucy’s letters to her.
Truth and Beauty is a sometimes brutally honest book that revealed Lucy’s frailties and insecurities to the world. “She told me later that's when she started grinding up the OxyContin and snorting them. When they were gone, she made the simple transition back to heroin.”(p.232) This was too much, too soon for the Grealy family, who were already left in a state of intense grieving following Lucy’s death in 2002 from an accidental heroin overdose. In Hijacked by Grief, Suellen Grealy describes the negative impact Truth and Beauty has had on her family, mainly that it was too narrow of a viewpoint to accurately present who Lucy actually was. Suellen laments that this skewed version of Lucy is the one that is presented to the public, who then jumped to conclusions both about Lucy and the Grealy family, especially her mother. She also alleges that the reason Patchett published her book so soon after Lucy’s death was to attract more publicity because Lucy was so famous from her writings. Suellen raises the question of whether or not Patchett was justified in using Lucy’s writings to add to what she says is an incomplete book.
Ann Patchett is justified in using her friend’s letters for a number of reasons. She needs Lucy’s…