Autobiography of a Face | Book Review
Original Publication Date: 1994
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Source: I purchased this book
At age nine, Lucy Grealy was diagnosed with potentially terminal cancer. When she returned to school with a third of her jaw removed, she faced the cruel taunts of classmates. It took her twenty years of living with a distorted self-image and more than thirty years of reconstructive procedures before she could come to terms with her appearance. In this lyrical and strikingly candid memoir, Grealy tells her story of great suffering and remarkable strength without sentimentality and with considerable wit. She captures what it is like as a child and a young adult to be torn between two warring impulses: to feel that more than anything else we want to be loved for who we are while wishing desperately and secretly to be perfect.
Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy is like no other book I’ve ever read.
When Lucy was nine years old, she was diagnosed with a form of cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma. Her likelihood of survival was slim.
Lucy Grealy’s Face Was Disfigured
After her surgery to remove part of her jaw, Lucy was permanently disfigured. She had to endure the cruel taunts of her classmates. She also came from a highly dysfunctional family.
Many more surgeries followed to “correct” the disfigurement but they were ultimately unsuccessful and came at a terrible emotional cost to Grealy.
Since I knew the eventual outcome of Lucy’s story I expected to be depressed while reading it.
But Lucy was so self-deprecating and had such a sly sense of humor that I enjoyed it tremendously. She wrote several other books but this book is her most lasting legacy.
This book was a huge success for Lucy, giving her the attention that she craved. Alas, it was not to last.
I highly recommend Autobiography of a Face. It is a book that you will not soon forget.
You can read more about Lucy here.
Please read my review of Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton.