Motivations Behind Resilience.

by Leslie Morgan Steiner


Political wife Elizabeth Edwards’ new memoir, Resilience, became a best-seller before it was officially published last Friday. Conveniently launched in time for a Mother’s Day blitz, the book hit the media jackpot with appearances on Oprah, NPR’s All Things Considered, The Today Show and People Magazine. The blogosphere has been filled with commentary.


Quite an impressive achievement for the 59-year-old mother of four, who has been married to former presidential candidate John Edwards for 31 years, and is living with terminal, untreatable breast cancer.


But here’s the loaded question: why on earth did Elizabeth Edwards write, publish and promote this book?


Her 2006 memoir, Saving Graces covered note-worthy territory and justifiably became a best-seller. Edwards wrote candidly about the challenges of being a political spouse, surviving the death of her teenage son Wade in a car accident, and facing breast cancer. Elizabeth Edwards proved to be the real politician in the family, earning near-universal admiration and respect from America women who see ourselves in her. Like many of us, she is not as thin or beautiful as she once was, she sacrificed her career as a lawyer to support her husband and care for her family, and motherhood, marriage and life have made her real, like the Velveteen Rabbit who gets all his fuzz rubbed off in the process of being loved by a child.


Having written a memoir about my first marriage, I certainly understand the power of taking a bad experience and turning it into a force for good. However, it’s hard to see how Resilience benefits Elizabeth, her husband, or her children. Because the only new topic in Resilience is John Edwards’ sordid affair with paid presidential campaign staffer Rielle Hunter and the question of whether he fathered Rielle’s year old daughter. Not surprisingly, the media and Internet frenzy has focused exclusively on John Edwards’ infidelity and details of the affair with Hunter. Whose fault was it? His for being a lying opportunistic sleaze? Rielle’s for being the same? Elizabeth, as one snarky blog comment put it, for “letting herself go”? Elizabeth Edwards is media-savvy enough to know that this book would inevitably stir up salacious commentary about her marriage, her husband’s extramarital wanderings, and a cute one year old who may be a half-sibling to her children.