Resilience: Reflections on the Burdens and Gifts of Facing Life's Adversities
by Elizabeth Edwards


Broadway Books, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7679-3136-6.
Reviewed by Susan Ideus
Posted on 08/03/2009

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Relationships

We meet a different Elizabeth Edwards in Resilience than we did in her earlier book Saving Graces. This woman is older, of course, but also more resolute, practical, and edgier. Less concerned with being "graceful," she is plain-spoken about the changes in her life.

As in the earlier book, she writes at length about the loss of her older son, Wade, but there is more distance now and maybe some resolution, although she states firmly that she will never be "over" him, but rather that she has learned to go living a life without him in it.

Her marriage, once presented as a nearly perfect union,"a great love story," has faltered over husband John's affair with a campaign worker. She gives no sordid details of the affair, no sensationalism here. Rather she talks about the loss of trust, the thought that her support system, her best friend might be gone. Yet, John never expected to not be a part of Elizabeth's life forever. "Now it was not what I would do faced with his indiscretion that mattered. Cancer was writing the script. Cancer would decide. And realizing this, he broke down with fear and love and regret." (pg.137) They continue to crusade together on the issues they consider vital, and he is with her through every treatment she receives.

Forever...another concept that Edwards explores at length. It's now taken on a whole new meaning for her. Due to her returning cancer, she now has no idea how much time she has left. She knows she wants more than she will have. On pg. 131, she says "In a moment—a 'you have cancer' moment—all the genetic aces folded. I was—am—desperately afraid of losing the precious moments of life." "My schedule is now and always will be determined by infusion appointments and MRI's. Every Christmas is my last well Christmas, or it could be." (pg. 33)

Elizabeth, however, does not leave us with a grim feeling. Crusader and fighter that she has always been, she will not give up the fights—not for her family, not for her causes, not for her cancer. She wrests what control she can from her life right now. "All that is in my control is how I live now." (pg. 149) She has chosen to fill her days with the "best Joys" she can find—her children, her friends, her crusade to raise awareness and money for breast cancer research and to champion health care for those affected. No, she's not going down without a fight.

The title Resilience is an apt description of the author. She has, she says, gotten very adept at getting back up when dealt a blow. After each, she believes, a different life begins; we cannot go back to the old one. Each time there is a new story to write. And with this book, she has.


Elizabeth Edwards lives with her husband John and their two youngest children in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She continues to do interviews for her book, to travel with John in support of various causes and has recently won an award from Mass General Hospital for her work on behalf of breast cancer and health coverage issues.

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