• Autobiography of a Face

  • By: Lucy Grealy
  • Narrated by: Coleen Marlo
  • Length: 5 hrs and 55 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (199 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"I spent five years of my life being treated for cancer, but since then I've spent 15 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."

At age nine, Lucy Grealy was diagnosed with a potentially terminal cancer. When she returned to school with a third of her jaw removed, she faced the cruel taunts of classmates. In this strikingly candid memoir, Grealy tells her story of great suffering and remarkable strength without sentimentality and with considerable wit. Vividly portraying the pain of peer rejection and the guilty pleasures of wanting to be special, Grealy captures with unique insight what it is like as a child and 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.

©1994 Lucy Grealy (P)2016 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"This harrowing, lyrical autobiographical memoir...is a striking meditation on the distorting effects of our culture's preoccupation with physical beauty." ( Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about Autobiography of a Face

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Pathos and Resilience

I read the memoir by her friend first, but couldn't resist going back to read this. Her resilience is amazing. Her honesty truly surprising and she details her life very matter-of-factly I high recommend it, especially if you enjoy memoirs from unique voices.

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Rewarding listen even if memoir is not your thing

I hesitated thinking it might be an unbearably sad memoir but glad I went ahead and used my credit. Beautifully written, Lucy Grealy became a lauded poet and taught at Bennington College. I was hooked from the prologue. Also looks at the medical advances or not in reconstructive surgery and the failings of our medical profession.. A wonderful narrator which made listening a pleasure. Don't hesitate. Get this.

2 people found this helpful

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Endurance. Grace.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Autobiography of a Face?

The sight of the woman in the sun porch. And the tour of the house where the author's Birth mother labored with her.

What about Coleen Marlo’s performance did you like?

That she spoke of so many deep issues on experiences and feelings with a tone that exuded example. Example on how to acknowledge and own feelings but not to react in negative ways. it's so easy to jump into anger but the tone stopped that before it ever happened.

Any additional comments?

I loved that this book is a real picture of real feelings throughout. It never fluffed anything up as far as what really happens in the hearts and minds of a child with no real say in the matter. I feel like it's a good story for those who have been there to hear-if only to validate the effects of all of it. I'll surely keep Lucy in my heart for a very long time as a reminder that my feelings are very real, and that I can gather strength in the most positive ways during my own upcoming reconstructive surgeries (again). Thank you, Lucy, for sharing. For all of it. Thank you.

2 people found this helpful

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Worth reading twice

I read this when it came out and put it on the shelf for rereads and favorites. Listening to it again after a couple of decades it still holds up as a beautiful telling of what it is like to try to navigate this world when you look different from everyone. (and that’s is everyone to differing degrees.) Though her deformity was extreme I could really empathize with her anxiety just going through normal life. Whether you identify with that or not, I believe her experience can expand our humanity to include everyone and treat them accordingly whatever their appearance. After listening to it again I’m reading it from a point of wholeness and health while before I was broken and struggling. Her courage is still striking. Though she later ended her life, she fought the good fight and if you like to read about survivors you will love this. To me she is still a survivor for every day that she fought through, and that was every day. Let her show you another example of the human spirit to overcome dreadful circumstances. I hope this book keeps her story alive.

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I never knew...

I was a high school classmate of Lucy and never knew the struggles she went through in her life...

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A startling real and raw accounting.

A must read companion to Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchette. inside the mind and life of a true artist struggling to come to grips with illness, disfigurement and our cruel societal notions of beauty.

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my love for Lucy...❤

I listened to Ann Patchett's book Turth and Beaty and This Is A Story Of A Happy Marriage that gave such a beautiful introduction into Lucy's life and struggles. I adore this reflection piece that Lucy, an incredible poet and written created to share with everyone the trials and grief she went through in her life. ❤

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Heartwrenching, but perspective building...

This is a tale that reminded me to appreciate the gifts of childhood that I squandered and recognize the impact my parents insecurities had on my judgment of myself. Powerful recollections from a human with awe inspiring strength.