“In so many ways my life has been completely ordinary,” writes Elizabeth Edwards in her book, Saving Graces. But readers may find little that is ordinary in Mrs. Edwards' life.
Loss, Grief, Family
The majority of the book is devoted to the death of her 16-year-old son Wade, and to the Edwards’ political campaigns.
Few of us can afford the luxury of twice-daily graveside visits, plus time to make a garden there, and clean the graves nearby. Not everybody can have a marble sculpture created for a son’s grave by an artist-in-residence at the National Cathedral. But Elizabeth Edwards had all these things. Although she tells us details of her own grieving, we get very little insight into her husband and daughter’s grief at Wade’s death.
This Is Not a Breast Cancer Memoir
If you’re looking for a breast cancer memoir, this isn’t it. This book opens with a well-written section that tells us how and when she found her breast lump. But there are no details of her breast cancer diagnosis, its stage, what kind it was, and nothing about surgery or chemotherapy. In fact, we read no more about her cancer until the next to last chapter, when she gets a biopsy and goes through treatment. The text that is sandwiched between these two slices of the narrative is the rest of her autobiography. You might wish that the sandwich were filled with something more substantial, as a significant amount of it is copied from her online grief community and her online cancer support group. A strong editorial influence could have shaped this into something more tightly written and as compelling as the book’s first section.
A Good Edwards Family Portrait
Ms. Edwards is a “people person” and throughout this autobiography, she is surrounded by a host of family, friends, personal and political staff, online support communities, and some truly ordinary people. Elizabeth and John do appear to genuinely like ordinary people and have taken time to know their postman, gardener, teachers, newspaper boy, repairmen, and other service people that came and went. John Edwards, who has decided to run for president again, comes through as a genuinely decent and caring person. This book is a good portrait of the Edwards family. But don’t expect this to be a breast cancer memoir, because Elizabeth Edwards has clearly moved on from there.
Update to Her Story
John and Elizabeth Edwards have announced that her breast cancer has returned and spread to a bone. John Edwards plans to continue his bid for U.S. President, saying of his wife's cancer, "We are very optimistic." Speaking of his campaign schedule, Edwards said, "Any time, any place I need to be with Elizabeth, I will be there."