Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers
In this first memoir by Elizabeth Edwards, the author writes eloquently about her life before marrying Senator John Edwards, the tragic loss of their oldest son, the 2004 Presidential campaign and her diagnosis with breast cancer at the conclusion of the campaign. Before beginning the memoir, I was aware of the major highlights of her story from the news coverage of her husband's bid for Democratic nominee for President and subsequently VP. I had seen her speak in a number of interviews in support of her husband's Presidential aspirations but didn't have any opinion about her, per se. She was a candidate's wife and really didn't grab my attention.
So I was surprised when I began reading her memoir - surprised in two ways, really. I was surprised by the warmth that emanated from the pages - she draws you in and is so obviously a nurturer that you can easily imagine dropping into her home for coffee and a good chat. I was also surprised by the intelligence demonstrated in her writing - this is a woman that clearly has a point of view and can articulate it very well. She uses literature and poetry references easily throughout the book but in an accessible way which is far from intimidating. She speaks in a very informed way about top issues facing the US today - including healthcare. She does not repeat soundbytes but provides a well-thought out, considered commentary.
As you can imagine, however, much of the memoir focuses on the event that changed her and her family's lives forever - the death of her oldest son, Wade. Her descriptions of how she felt upon hearing the news and at key points following his death were eloquent but gut-wrenching - her grief and loss were palpable in her writing. She is honest about the process she went through to learn to cope with the loss and the amount of time it took - in fact, she is honest about the fact that this loss is something she will never "get over". But through the grief, you can see a determination to continue to be there for her family and for others facing the loss of a child and to ensure her son's life was appropriately memorialized.
Surviving the loss of her son seems to have provided Elizabeth Edwards with an interesting perspective on the next challenge presented to her - the diagnosis of Stage 3 breast cancer. It is almost as if she is better equipped to deal with this obstacle after surviving her son's loss. I had trouble reconciling myself to the equanimity with which she received the diagnosis but I have not experienced the loss she has to know if it would offer me the same ability to look such a fate in the eye and resolve to move through it.
Overall - I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir and really connected with the author. I respect her intelligence and introspection. I was more than disappointed when, after I read this book, the news of her diagnosis with metastatic breast cancer and her husband's infidelities were revealed. It seems like someone that has been through so much should not be dealt two more bad cards; I thought her book would be a great comfort to anyone facing challenges - perhaps she will call upon select passages as she faces her newest obstacles.
Reading at the Beach hosts the A-Z meme which asks you to spotlight a book whose title starts with the letter of the week. This week's letter was "S".