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on May 8, 2009
Elizabeth Edwards has written a fascinating book on her life and the storms she has weathered. From the death of her father and son, to her mother's suspicions of infidelity in her own marriage and Elizabeth's reality of John's affair, this is one strong woman. She is brutally honest in her reaction to her son's death and living with cancer. For all the pre-release publicity, there is surprisingly little about John's affair. I wasn't looking for the tabloid details. Instead I was hoping she would be as honest about the aftermath of the affair as she was about other aspects of her life. How did they deal with it immediately? How was the trust re-broken after he finally told the whole truth? What has her relationship been with her children, especially the adult daughter? How are the kids and extended family feeling about John? How are they mending their relationship?

I would definitely buy and read the book again. Although more details were available in the Oprah interview regarding the affair, her honesty and thought processes are incredible. As I said, she is a strong woman.
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on May 10, 2009
I can well identify with Elizabeth. My daughter committed suicide 5 years ago this month, I found I had breast cancer last September(stage II like Elizabeth's was originally), and I, too, have experienced betrayal and lies from someone I loved. To me, she really wrote 3 books. The first and the one that took up almost 70% of the text, was her still mourning the loss of her son. I understand that and know she will always have a hole inside of her that nothing will fill, but time will ease. The second book was about her cancer. All of us survivors are so often surprised with our diagnosis. Like her, there didn't seem to be the usual contributing factors, but never mind, there it is! This is a hard book for us cancer survivors because like it or not, "recurrence" is a word that sends chills down our backs. Then there's John. When one is so betrayed, it's easier to blame the others involved and too hard to really look at the betrayor. She looks at her life, trying to figure out what went wrong to cause all of this to fall on her. I think she's correct that how women are raised to believe in "Cinderella" stories, infects how we deal with the world. We don't seem to be adequately prepared to foresee some of these unhappy events of real life. She saw that in herself and took the responsibility for it. She doesn't blame God. How many times do cancer survivors hear that maybe God caused this to happen because of some positive thing. Cancer ain't a gift, folks!

People have the choices to be victims or to be resilient. That is her choice and I believe she will grow even stronger as time passes. There is much criticism abroad for her writing this book, often written by people who have not experienced the things she has experienced. Maybe they should quiet down and read it again. It may come in handy in the future!
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on May 11, 2009
I have so much respect for Elizabeth Edwards. She has written a beautiful and heartbreakingly honest book - I have read all her books and have found all of them to be inspiring. This most recent book however, is the best. She is brutally honest about her cancer, the loss of her son and especially about the infidelity of her husband. I don't know why her husband chose to be unfaithful, but I hope he can live with himself. Elizabeth is a tremendous lady. I am grateful she has chosen to share her experiences with us - I draw strength from her wisdom.
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VINE VOICEon May 10, 2009
... is something that Elizabeth Edwards knows a lot about. Grieving mother, cancer patient and a wife scorned could all fit her very well, but the label she wears most proudly is survivor, to the nth degree. Edwards new book, which she muses about the nature of resiliency, is a powerhouse of endurance, self-help, and perseverance.

I can imagine that many people who are going to pick up this book are looking for the lurid details of the latest news in Elizabeth Edwards' life, mainly, the affair her husband Democratic Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards had with a videographer on his campaign. As Edwards says herself, those details will not be found in the book. What is there, which she talks about in her second to last chapter, is her reactions to the affair, and her thought process she went through as she dealt with the betrayal of vows.

But oh, the book is so much more than that. Sometimes, "celebrity" writers are choppy and rambling in their books, even if "ghost written" by someone else. Not so Edwards. Her writing is evocative, personal, and incredibly engaging. Much of the book she wanders through the myraid of feelings she had as her sixteen year old son Wade died in a freak of nature car accident. Edwards as a grieving mother is beautiful and heartbreaking. The chapter she devotes exclusively to Wade cannot be read with a dry eye. Her writing evokes her personal journey in a way that has to be experienced.

But this is not a book of sadness; no, this is a book of continuing on. In the first chapter, she talks about her father's massive stroke and how, after she was told he was brain dead, he continued to live on, almost eighteen years. That lesson gave Edwards the stamina and courage to face whatever obstacles she would encounter in her own life. As she so beautifully put it, you have to "adjust the sails".

I am planning on keeping this book for my lifetime. When time offers trials to me, and I feel like I cannot endure, Edwards' words will give me a renewed sense of comfort. This book would also be an excellent gift to anyone grieving the loss of a relationship, a child, a parent; while each of our journeys is personal, the wisdom shared from that path, as Edwards remarkably does in this slim yet powerful book, can enlighten the road for all of us.
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on August 25, 2009
I really wanted to like this book, and was so looking forward to discussing it with my book club. I will say that I found her childhood and upbringing very interesting, and definitely wanted to know more about her and her life. Unfortunately so much of her life has revolved around the death of her son, and also unfortunate, so did this book. My book club and I agreed that she referred to her son, his death, her mourning his death, her honoring his death, remembering him, etc. to the point of monotony. I don't mean to be insensitive, I'm a mother, I would be devastated. I did loan this to my mother-in-law who has also lost a child, and she agreed that it was too much about her son. I will say that she can turn a phrase, but it stops mattering when you try to say the same thing thirty different ways.
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on May 21, 2009
I found Elizabeth Edwards' opening chapter on her Dad compelling, empowering, and inspiring. Two weeks ago, I flew home to care for Mom. She wanted to get better, but her digestive system had inexplicably shut down. She was recovering from surgery and unable to eat more than a few bites per meal. The food at the 24-hour nursing facility was terrible. I cleaned by night and cooked by day...brought in alternate lunches and dinners...waterboarded her with food. Sometimes she would eat just once bite out of a whole entree. But Mom did not give up on herself, and I did not give up on Mom. "Do NOT go gentle unto that good night."

The breakthrough was my finding a drug side-effect that had been stanching her appetite among her dozen drugs. Now she's eating full meals and slowly regaining strength. Don't trust the "experts" to know what they are doing.

Mom says I had won her trust. Priceless.

The one thing that made me wrinkle my brow was that Elizabeth felt diminished by what her husband did. I don't think she should. Women often try to be all things to all people, and that is humanly impossible.

Regarding the chapter on Toshiko...who put on a resolute face despite her physical and emotional scars from the first atomic bomb. Geishas are trained to not show negative or strong emotion because that leads to wrinkles, which limits one's career. Emotional botox.

It is a pleasure reading Edwards for her wisdom and thought processes. My lessons from this book...keep a steady hand on the tiller and don't give up...do the hard work of working through adversity.
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on May 24, 2009
I am 56 years old, divorced, diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 47 and while I was recovering, my husband started having affairs (who knows? maybe before I was diagnosed). The communication in our marriage had deteriorated, but I was trying to make it better, and when I discovered his infidelity, he agreed to go marriage counseling and I arranged it. The first thing the counselor said was, "you may not see that women again," And the first thing my ex-husband did was see the woman. John Edwards is/was apparently contrite; my ex-husband certainly was not. But in the final analysis, does that really make a difference? Betrayal is betrayal. How do you trust them again?

Elizabeth lost her son to a unimaginable accident when he was 16. How could the universe take him like that? Will time stop as a result? Can she stop time and reverse things so that Wade comes back? Her innocence, and that of her family, was snatched away in an instant. No opportunity to say goodbye, to tell him one more time that you loved him. It's not just a death. It's an existential death. All of a sudden, you're in Auschwitz and you're going stay there. Always. I disgree with readers/reviewers who say that time heals or eases things. That's because they can't conceive of living in ground zero for the rest of their life as a result of such a massive, unimaginable tragedy. Sure you go on again, you laugh again, you eat a good dinner, you read a good novel. But this kind of tragedy sends your heart into Auschwitz and you never get out, ever. So that's what Elizabeth means when she says that you have to change your view of your own life. She means that you have to build a life inside the parameters of Auschwitz.

How do I know this? Because my mother was murdered at work when I was nine years old, by one of her patients. She was a psychiatric social worker and the patient had a psychotic break and stabbed her to death. Them, we survivors who loved her went insantly into the death camp, and never came out again.

So breaat cancer, infidelity, and tragic death -- do I ever understand.

That being said, this book puts me in a place I have often gone to all these years. Do we choose to go in the direction maturity, self-containment, understanding, forgiveness? Is that how we (Elizabeth and I, and others in our situation) honestly feel, or at least aspire to? Sometimes I think we do, and that it's the only healthy way to go; and sometimes I simply resent the whole thing -- that I should even have to make that choice to begin with. We survivors -- we didn't hurt the world, we didn't betray the world, it betrayed us. It took from us. It took everything from us. So my response, sometimes (often), is "F.U." And if I want to use the most scatalogical language to describe how I feel, if I want to display my rage in any way, at any time, to anyone, regardless of whether it's fair or not to them or to the world, too bad! The world wassn't fair to me, so why do I have to be the bigger person? Since the world wasn't fair or rational to me, why do I have to be fair or rational with the world? I'm in Auschwitz, so all bets are off. The rules don't apply.

I don't know if Elizabeth feels that way or not. But I think she probably does. She sort of touches on the rage in the book, and the choice she makes every day to find joy and stay sane. But I would have liked to see more in-depth detail on her personal struggle between rage and sanity, between rage and forgiveness.
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on May 18, 2009
not a political document. Elizabeth Edwards never ran for political office and had no obligation to tell anyone anything about her husband's affair. To the contrary, her ONLY obligation was to her family. To suggest that she was complicit in some political conspiracy is absolutely absurd.

By definition, a memoir describes the author's personal life experiences, which I think Elizabeth Edwards does quite competently and at times brilliantly. No one bought this book because they wanted to read about her 28+ years of relative happiness -- indeed, such a book would likely never have been published. Being critical of Ms. Edwards for describing and exploring her response to her son's death, her incurable cancer, and her publicly unfaithful husband makes about as much sense as buying the Joy of Cooking and complaining that all it has it in is recipes and stuff about cooking.

I can only imagine the firestorm if Ms. Edwards had written the book some reviewers think she should have: "yea, my son died, but he wasn't that great and I got over it. Then I got incurable cancer but since I am married to someone influential and we are rich I get great care, so too bad for all those women who don't -- they should have thought about having better parents, or marrying better, or getting an education so they could get a job with benefits BEFORE they got breast cancer. And sure, John cheated on me, but I got the last laugh -- I outed him and so what if that exposed me and my kids to public humiliation, and besides, based upon the prior two sentences you already know that I am too stupid and shallow to really care much about any of them."

I cannot fathom how anyone could characterize this author as a "whiner". She experienced three major blows in a decade. I am a mother of three, and I think 99% of mothers will agree with me that the death of a child is the absolute worst thing that can happen, period, end of discussion. I can't imagine how those mothers even dress themselves. I know as much as I can know anything with certainty that if I lost one of my children, that loss would stay with me every second of every minute of every day for the rest of my life. I found her description of her grieving both poetic and insightful. Grief is not a train that you catch at the station -- I wondered when reading this section if it had taken her 10+ years to bring herself to the point where she could really write about it.

Cancer and an unfaithful husband are in my view relatively small change compared to Wade's death, but I think Ms. Edwards addressed those experiences with compassion, insight, and an enviable level of decorum and respect for all involved. I would have liked to hear more about where she is on those issues now, but I completely respect her right to reveal as much of herself as she feels comfortable revealing at this point. I sincerely hope to someday be reading her book on how she dealt with the challenges she faced in the spring of 2009.

Perhaps it is because I identify somewhat with this author that I feel the need to defend her from what I view as politically motivated attacks. I practiced law for several years, I have three kids, my husband's career took off, and I stayed home and raised the children -- something I view as an honor and a privilege, but it can be lonely work nonetheless, and I know that I am not unique in losing my sense of identity and importance when I quit working. We are a nation that pays lip service to caring about mothers and their children, but at the end of the day, no one in politics much cares about either. I empathize with and respect Ms. Edwards struggle to find -- or maybe redefine -- herself in the face of pretty overwhelming stuff.

The take away message of this book for me was life changing: things happen and then you have a New Reality. Clinging to and fighting for the old reality is both pointless and painful. The very definition of resilience for me is the ability to do that, and, applying that definition, Ms. Edwards is a very resilient woman indeed.
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on May 24, 2009
I am a great admirer of Elizabeth Edwards. It takes enormous courage to write about such personal and painful subjects as your own cancer, the death of your father, the death of your son and your husband's affair. She is certainly resilient, a quality one needs when faced with the kind of betrayal she has faced--both from her own body, and from her husband.

As the author of a book about older women and divorce, He's History, You're Not: Surviving Divorce After 40I am nowhere near as resilient as Edwards--I became clinically depressed when my husband left me for another woman. Eventually I moved on but it took a long time and a lot of therapy. It was touch and go for a while which was scary. However, I did run across many divorcees who went through worse experiences than mine, who were remarkably resilient and bounced back from incredible adversity.

Resilience is both our genes and our upbringing. If we're lucky enough to have a sunny disposition to begin with, and the kind of parenting which sets us up to feel secure and capable in the world, we can rescue ourselves when we need to. If we didn't have that kind of parenting, we can still overcome obstacles, but it's a hell of a lot harder. Edwards is a role model for women who face tragedy and who need inspiration and the reassurance that it is possible to survive just about anything.

Erica Manfred
author
He's History, You're Not: Surviving Divorce After 40
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on November 2, 2010
My book club selected this book as our monthly read. I wasn't overly impressed with the book nor would I recommend to others, except in situation where the reader has experienced the tragic loss of a child. If you pick up this book because you're expecting to get the "dirt" on John Edwards or even insights about their relationship, you'll be dissappointed. If you also expected deep reflection about her experience with breast cancer, with take-aways, you'll also be dissapointed. Most of this book is dealing with the death of her and John's son Wade at the age of 16. This makes for a very sad book, and a dozen years later, she is still not over it (not that you ever could be.) Though I'm sure the writting of this book was cathartic for her, I'm not sure how helpful it would be to others. Her practical strategies for coping may offer some solace, but I had expected more soul-searching and sharing of her inner-thought process, leading up to a transformation of sorts. It does seem that she's been dealt a heavy hand given the sons death, her cancer diagnosis,and John's infidelities & child with another women. In the end, I felt supremely sorry for her. If you have also dealt with the loss of a child, you may feel a kinship with Elizabeth and resonate with her story. Otherwise, for me, there's not much depth on the topic of resilience.
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