Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of 2004 Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards, will be at the Des Moines Public Library on Wednesday afternoon to talk about her recently-released book — “Saving Graces.”
Edwards talked about her book during a telephone interview this morning with Radio Iowa. It’s a personal memoir that does chronicle her recent bout with breast cancer. But much of it focused on the grieving process she has gone through since her 16-year-old son, Wade, died ten years ago when the Jeep he was driving rolled over. “Writing the book was both joyful in terms of going back through, thinking of the people who’ve helped me, and hard because I wanted to draw a picture that was wholly accurate of the bad times,” Edwards said. “I know that a lot of times people in the public eye try to give you a stiff upper lip about things. They don’t want to show vulnerability. They want to show strength and I thought it was important for people to have more realistic models.”
Parts of the book were very difficult to write, according to Edwards, who said some sections are difficult for her to read aloud even now because they deal with such “raw” emotion. She describes the writing process as an emotion rollercoaster. “It took less time to write the book than you might have imagined, partly because it’s my own story and also because I’m sort of an insomniac work-a-holic,” Edwards said. She wrote, just about full-time, for seven days a week and completed the majority of the book over a three-month period.
Edwards said she intended the book to be about her personal story and didn’t focus much on the political world she has inhabited with her husband, a former North Carolina Senator who is mulling another bid for the White House in 2008. “I never wanted to write a political book,” she said. “I wasn’t much interested in doing one these, you know, looking back and hugging everybody that I ever came in contact with.”
Instead, Edwards said she wanted to disprove the notion that she was in some way stronger than most in dealing with personal tragedies like the loss of a child and breast cancer. “I wanted to show people, first, that I wasn’t strong, that I was just as much a pile of jelly as the rest of them and also that that the way that I was able to stand up was because I relied on communities, the one’s you’d expect: the people from your church or people from the PTA or the people you played soccer with, from work and your neighbors, but also a much wider net of all the people I came into contact with — the bag boy or the mailman…and also a great on-line community. I wanted to show people something that had nothing to do with politics, but everything to do with communities.”
Edwards describes all the people she came in contact with, even those she’s never met but who wished her well in a written note, as as “strands in the spider web” that held her up during her toughest times. “That silent support is surprisingly important in making us feel like we can beat whatever faces us,” Edwards said.
Her husband was in Iowa this past weekend and John Edwards briefly offered his own perspective on what he called “the emotional experience” his wife went through in writing the book. “I watched her up close go through it, and it was quite something to watch,” Edwards said. The former senator does not speak about his son on the campaign trail and declines to respond when people ask him questions about the loss. But Edwards often wears a lapel pin that was his son’s.
Elizabeth Edwards is scheduled to speak at the Des Moines Public Library at 2:30 this Wednesday afternoon. She is at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, this afternoon, signing copies of her book.