Thursday, January 17, 2008

Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

In Autobiography of a Face, Lucy Grealy takes us on a touching, sometimes heart-wrenching journey of her life after cancer leaves her with a facial disfigurement as a young child. She endures many, many operations in search of a new face as well as the taunts and stares of others who didn’t see Lucy as “normal”.

Grealy’s story is extraordinary. Her writing was expressive and a joy to read. Her insight and maturity level as a child were very advanced for someone so young. She was so in touch with her feelings and really seemed to understand the motivations of others. Her memory of the events that happened so long ago was remarkable. She had so many vivid recollections of her ordeal. I don’t know if I’m envious (I’d love to have a better memory about some things) or I feel sorry for her (sometimes I’d sooner forget bad events).

I’m not much of a poetry fan, so the poetry references and part of the story regarding Lucy’s draw towards it was not that interesting to me. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the story.

Before I started, I honestly didn’t know if I was going to be able to get through this book. My mother was severely disfigured by cancer and I don’t think I’ve come to terms with it after these years. However, Lucy’s story is so different from my mother’s that it wasn’t as difficult to read as I initially thought. Grealy did provide me with some new information that would have been helpful had my mother survived and did well after her surgery.

While the story reminded just a little of my mother’s ordeal, it did transport me back to the time was I was in the hospital as a child. I was much younger than Lucy, probably 4 or 5 and don’t remember that much. I do have a few memories, more like snapshots really or very short videos. Also, Lucy’s story about her father’s death reminded me of my own father’s death. So in the end, Lucy’s story led me down memory lane after all, just not the one I thought it was going to.

Highly recommended.

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