Elizabeth Edwards has not had an easy life. (There’s your understatement for the day.) Her last book, Saving Graces, was a memoir that took us through her struggle with breast cancer and her marriage to the then-seemingly-awesome politician and presidential candidate John Edwards. Her next book, Resilience, is a smaller, more intimate look at arguably even more difficult struggles: dealing with her husband’s infidelity, which mirrored the grief she felt at the death of her son Wade, and how both evoked her father’s fight to recover from a stroke. A paperback edition, released this week, expands the events of the book to offer more insight into her coping and moving on in the unfamiliar new terrain she found herself on.
It ain’t cheerful, but it’ll stop you in your tracks the next time you feel whiny because the nanny didn’t show up.
Edwards insists this is not a how-to, assigning coping strategies to people with their own challenges. She found no easy answers and doesn’t expect the reader to, either. Rather, she’s putting down on the page her own process of coping and, if not recovering, at least managing to slog through each day, some brighter than others. The recurring theme is a desire to just have it all go away -- to return to an earlier version of her life, before things got so hard.
It’s sad and hard to read about someone feeling that yearning. After John confessed his infidelity and the news hit the papers, she was faced with a new, public autobiography. “I didn’t like this new life story; I wanted my old one,” she says. “It felt so much like after Wade died.”
Oof. Feels like being punched in the stomach, to read that. She talks about the loss of three decades of trust, and about advising John not to run in 2006. From other accounts of Edwards’ behavior, he seems to have gone off the rails a bit -- become so arrogant and drunk with power that he thought he could do whatever he wanted.
There are a lot of reasons people act out and misbehave. I’m not the kind of person who condemns them for one act, even when it’s incredibly stupid, and neither is Elizabeth Edwards. She looks for reasons, she reaches into the wells of her soul to find forgiveness without being a doormat, and she continues to wake up every day. I find that much more refreshing than the chirpy “Everything is great! And now it’s even greater!” stories that tend to dominate women’s book-lists.
This may not be an easy read, but it’s an oddly inspirational one. My best friend Rebecca and I always ask each other what in the world had us so upset in our 20s that we’d call each other crying because of a bad second date or an audition gone wrong. Life gets so much harder, and we get so much more adept at dealing as time goes on. There’s no better illustration of that than Reslience.
What do you think of Elizabeth Edwards’ story? Did you read her memoir? Will you read this one?
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