Autobiography of a Face by Ann Patchett

March 19, 2008
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"I spent five years of my life being treated for cancer, but since then I've spent fifteen years being treated for nothing other than looking different from everyone else. It was the pain from that, from feeling ugly that I always viewed as the great tragedy of my life. The fact that I had cancer seemed minor in comparison."


Autobiography of a Face is about young Lucy Grealy and her life long struggle with self-image and acceptance. It comes straight from an experience that most of us fortunately never have to go through.

Born in 1963 in Dublin and moving to New York in 1967, Lucy was one of five children. Being an Irish immigrant family was hard enough with feeling a dislocation of culture let alone staying positive. Diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in her jaw (A rare and often fatal form of cancer) at the age of 9 she goes through many procedures leaving her disfigured. Her innocence allows her to see only the benefits of being “sick”; Missing school, getting special treatment and being waited on. As she gets older, she slowly begins to realize how much of an impact physical appearance is to the world and being “sick” isn’t as great as she previously thought.

In her memoir, the lonely little girl she used to be would never believe that she would grow up to become a graduate of Sarah Lawrence University as well as a successful poet and author. Her last years were spent trying to overcome her depression and drug abuse. December 18, 2002 at the age of 39 Lucy died of a heroin overdose unfortunately leaving the world without further insight from her unique perspective.

You are really able to touch the pain and vivid memories, making you look at yourself and what you take for granted. Her raw emotion on beauty is heartbreaking and at the same time mesmerizing at the insight she carried at such a young age. But as fellow friend and author Anne Patchett points out, “no one can even imagine what hell Lucy went through”

And with that quote, she is indeed right. One can only imagine the pain and anger that Lucy went through, looking into the mirror and seeing a “monster”
Seeing an opposite image of who she was inside and who she wanted to be.
Although majority of the content in the book is depressing, Lucy holds no pity parties for herself. She just wants to be like everyone else.

“When I tried to imagine being beautiful, I could only imagine living without the perpetual fear of being alone, without the great burden of isolation, which is what feeling ugly felt like.” She entertains herself with the idea that repetitive content, the raw emotion keeps you in a trance of glimpses into Lucy’s life. Fellow friend and author Ann Patchett sums up the fact with how horrifying this may seem, the readers will never get even close to understanding the extent of pain that Lucy went through. The book gives you a whole new perspective about life.





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