Not Many Lessons in Edwards’ Resilience’

Posted June 8, 2009 at 5:39pm

The glamorous and tragic events in the life of Elizabeth Edwards, the cancer-stricken wife of former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), seem fodder enough for a page-turning read that would satisfy politicos and gossip hounds alike.

But Edwards’ latest book, “Resilience,— is short on the details of her husband’s infidelities, and the author warns as much — 171 pages into her 213-page book.

“If you picked up this book in hopes that in it there will be details of a scandal, you should now put the book down,— Edwards writes as she begins to explore the topic of her husband’s extramarital affair in the closing pages of her second book.

A salacious page-turner it’s not. “Resilience— instead is a brief read in streaming consciousness, in which Edwards drifts from recounting fond memories of her childhood to her years as a wife and mother.

Woven throughout are the philosophical thoughts of a terminally ill woman whose children are young and whose days are most likely numbered.

“Even if my illness somehow allows me those days, it will by necessity be different because, at the very least, I am a different person now,— Edwards writes in an earlier chapter, slyly referencing her husband’s infidelity as she pontificates on the life she is trying to live as a woman diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer.

With every tragic event in her married life, from the death of her eldest son Wade in 1996 to her cancer diagnosis and her husband’s indiscretion, Edwards said she and her husband “tried to make ourselves believe that our lives could go on.—

But “after everything we had been through we should have known,— she writes.

“I would like to say that a single incidence is easy to overcome, but it is not,— Edwards later notes, as she writes her way through trying to make sense of the situation that clearly still plagues her. “I always thought I was the kind of woman, the kind of wife to whom a husband would be faithful. … Leave me, if you must, but be faithful to me if you are with me.—

Edwards devotes a somber middle section of her book to discussing her son Wade, who was killed in a car accident when he was 16 years old. She discusses how she sought solace from an Internet group of supporters who also lost children, and she uses his death to reflect upon her talents as a mother to her three other children.

In thumbing through the pages of this short book, one gets the sense that Edwards held back in writing “Resilience,— her second book following the 2006 memoir “Saving Graces,— to spare her children, Cate, 27, Emma Claire, 11, and Jack, 9, the unseemly details of death and infidelity.

And while Edwards tries defiantly to end “Resilience— with a sense of intensity and honor, the 212 pages that precede those closing lines leave one feeling more sad than strong.

“I do not know what the most important lesson is that I will ever teach my children,— she closes, trying to forecast in pages what they might say in words: “They will be able to say that she stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, and it surely has not, she adjusted her sails.—