Truth and Beauty, Ann Patchett

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It was serendipity that I read this after Sheila Heti's How Should a Person Be?, but I couldn't have planned a better counterpoint to that book if I tried.

Like Heti, Patchett uses notes from life -- weaving Lucy Grealy's letters into her reminiscence of their friendship. It is heartbreaking (because, of course, Grealy's end is untimely), and it is hopeful: "It takes a certain amount of effort to be miserable," Patchett writes, "and another kind of effort to be happy." She chooses to try and be happy, and to build happiness into the lives of others. Watching the rises and falls, the ebbs and tides of a friendship over the years, is surprisingly poignant, and though I will not try to emulate their relationship -- that would be a folly, obviously -- there are many things to learn from Patchett's quiet wisdom.