Autobiography of a Face

AutobiographyGrealy, Lucy. Autobiography of a Face.New York: HarperCollins, 2003.

I had all the right conditions to finish this book in two days – traveling, vacationing, but most of all, fascination. I couldn’t put it down. On the surface Autobiography of a Face is the tragic story of one woman’s struggle with cancer and journey through recovery. Only her struggle isn’t as an adult. She is a child. Confronting Ewing’s sarcoma at age nine Lucy battles through radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Her tone can only be described as matter of fact as she recounts the loneliness and pain after countless surgeries to correct the deformity of losing a third of her jaw. Deeper than that, Autobiography is about rising above the cruelty of others, shaking off the superficial prejudices of what supposedly makes a face beautiful. Lucy is defiant and remarkably stoic in her recollections of childhood taunts, adult avoidance, and across the board lack of social acceptance.
Critics call this book the vehicle with which to free oneself from self loathing and fears of rejection. It is a message to stop wallowing in self pity and live with dignity – no matter what. It’s also a call to be human and have real emotions as Lucy admits, “and as much as I wanted to love everybody in school and waft esoterically into the ether when someone called me ugly, I was plagued with petty desires and secret, evil hates” (p 181).

My favorite quote: “speaking seemed like something one could grow tired of” (p 77).

Lucy’s story ends with her getting published, finding friendships and getting on with her life. Yet, there is a darkness to it all. She is criticized for not telling the whole truth. There is mystery surrounding her untimely death in 2002. Her story leaves you asking what happened and wanting more. What the book doesn’t tell you is that her multiple surgeries led to an addiction to pain meds and subsequently, heroin. She died of an overdose at the age of 39. There is more drama after death, but I’ll leave that for you to figure out.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust and the chapter “Other People’s Shoes” (p 181). I can’t even begin to imagine being in Lucy’s shoes.


2 Comments on “Autobiography of a Face”

  1. sarah says:

    my sister read this when she was in a book club. its been on my “to read” list but i’ve never gotten to it.

  2. gr4c5 says:

    Quite simply: Get to it. It will teach you, then haunt you.


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