In this horribly named book, Patchett takes a look at her friendship with fellow writer Lucy Grealy and the tumultuous life Grealy lived. The title might seem to indicate some sort of high-flung work of artistic philosophy or something and how friendship connects the souls or something. But, no, what we have here is a book about an infinitely troubling woman, told with little in the way of flash or flourish. Grealy was plagued from her childhood with a variety of physical maladies that required near constant reconstructive work on her face and Patchett’s descriptions of these procedures, some of which seem near medieval, is often harrowing. But Lucy is a figure of anarchy and exuberance. She counts a day without sex a day wasted and as the book progresses, she tumbles headfirst into drugs and alcohol with abandon. But she craves true love just as passionately as she craves the drugs and her life is a roller-coaster ride of transcendent joy and dark, deep depressions. The book is often hilariously funny, but as it progresses, it gets darker and sadder as we see the highs and the lows start to resemble each other – they both start to result in deeply self-destructive behavior. Patchett is obviously, as she writes this book, still troubled by Lucy’s life and the friendship she had with Lucy over the years. It is, though, a book almost entirely without sentiment, at least of the maudlin variety; Patchett brings a clear eye to her subject and her portrait of Lucy seems both accurate and fair. She doesn’t reach for tragedy, but in her spare prose she achieves something like it. This book feels like it is, or at least is supposed to be, an exorcism, like Patchett is trying to pull her disparate emotions and thoughts about Lucy into some sort of coherence and thus do the same to Lucy’s person and life. But if that’s the goal, Patchett is clear-eyed about something else; she’s still haunted by Lucy and maybe always will be. The final line of the book is the most devastating I’ve encountered in quite a long time. There’s certainly truth there, painful truth; don’t come looking for beauty though. Patchett’s far too honest for that. 4 stars.
tl;dr – sometimes hilarious, often harrowing portrait of the iconoclastic Lucy Grealy is deeply moving without ever leaning too heavily on the sentimental. 4 stars.