Resilience by Elizabeth Edwards

August 29, 2010

resilience Summary: In this memoir, Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former North Carolina Senator and vice presidential nominee John Edwards, writes about the various adversities she has faced in her life and talks about some of the ways she’s found to cope with the adversities.

Edwards begins by talking about her father, an ex-Marine and the strongest person she knew. The way he recovered from a stroke and lived 18 years after doctors gave him no chance at all was a lesson in resilience that Elizabeth never forgot — and one that would serve her well through later calamities.

Edwards then writes at length about the tragic death of 16-year-old son Wade in 1996. It was a freak auto accident as Wade was driving with a friend to the beach. The boy wasn’t speeding, wasn’t under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and wasn’t impaired by terrible weather. A sudden gust of wind stirred up that blew the car off the road and caused it to roll. Wade was killed instantly, but his passenger merely suffered a sprained ankle. Edwards goes into great detail about the grief she felt at losing a child, and these chapters are painful enough to make any parent tear up.

From there, Edwards shifts the focus to herself and writes about her battle with breast and bone cancer. She discusses how she felt upon first learning the diagnosis, and takes readers through the emotional roller coaster ride of having to deal with this ravishing disease — while her husband was in the midst of another national campaign.

And yes, Edwards touches very briefly upon her devastation at learning that John committed adultery. The way the book was marketed, it seemed that this subject would be the main focus of Edwards’ writing, but that wasn’t the case. She does not go into detail here, not even naming the other woman. So if you were looking for a tabloid account of the affair, you’ll be sorely disappointed.


  • I was surprised at how intimate this memoir was. Not in the details of the affair, as I said, but in how much of her grief Edwards shares with readers. Even after 13 years, it’s clear that Wade’s death weighs heavily on her heart every single day. As a mother myself, I could feel a little, tiny bit of her pain.
  • Ditto about the details regarding cancer. Though the book was mostly about being resilient in the face of a child’s death, the fact of the matter is that Edwards is facing death herself. How she deals with that is amazing, and I have to admit that I teared up when I read the part about her welcoming death at least a bit because her faith tells her that she’ll be reunited with Wade in the afterlife. I don’t share Edwards’ faith, but I can imagine what a comfort that must be to her.


  • I wish Edwards hadn’t been so…lenient with John about the affair. She repeatedly referred to it as his “indiscretion”, and seemingly went out of her way to minimize the active role her husband played in the adultery. Although she didn’t come right out and say so, it was easy to infer that Elizabeth put most of the blame on the other woman. The fact that Elizabeth chose to forgive John is her business; I’m perfectly ok with that. But again, she seemed very reluctant to blame him for his part in the affair.


I was surprised at how much I came to care about Elizabeth Edwards and her situation while reading Resilience. I wasn’t much of a fan of hers before, but now that I’ve learned a bit about what she has gone through in her life and how truly resilient she is, I respect her and wish her all the best. I give Resilience 4 stars out of 5.

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