Two Weeks of Life: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Politics
by Eleanor Clift

Basic Books, 2008. ISBN 978-0-465-00251-1.
Reviewed by Trilla Pando
Posted on 04/18/2008

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Life Lessons

You probably know Eleanor Clift, or at least know of her. On Sundays, she's the one being yelled at on The McLaughlin Group. Anyone who's seen that show knows she is a tough professional who stands her ground. This book proves it. Even in the hardest of times, Clift is a journalist to the core. She declares in the early pages that this is a love story, and indeed it is, as she records the love she shared with her husband, Tom Brazaitis, as together they faced his spreading cancer and eventual death. But it is more than a memoir.

At the same time she is recording in precise and difficult detail the last two weeks of Tom's life lived peacefully in the living room of their home with the help of hospice, she tells of another story of life and death taking place in Florida—that of Terri Schiavo. Terri Schiavo's story dominated the news as her husband and parents debated the decision of continuing to sustain Terri's life. The governor and courts of Florida became involved, and then the dispute was taken to congress and the president. While Clift was caring for Tom every night, she was involved as a journalist and commentator covering the Schiavo controversy. Her husband, also a journalist, had insisted early on that Clift continue her professional commitments. She did.

Now she has taken these two simultaneous events and combined them into an account that is both an intense personal memoir and a clear analysis of the hard decisions that face families when a loved one's life is ending. She gives her story clearly while she weaves in the Schiavo story in even-handed reporting. "I'm a journalist by training and instinct. That reporting is the vehicle for my journey to make sense of the physical, ethical and moral issues legitimately raised by both sides in the debate," Clift explains in the preface to the book.

This is a difficult topic, but one that most of us will have to face at some point. While the book is serious and straightforward, it is not difficult to read. In fact, it is a pleasure both to share the personal story and to benefit from Clift's clear writing. The inclusion at book's end of several columns written for the Cleveland Plain Dealer by Brazaitis across the course of his struggle makes the story even more tender and personal.

Eleanor Clift, a contributing editor of Newsweek, appears on the syndicated The McLaughlin Group as a panelist and on Fox News Network as a political analyst. She co-authored two books, War Without Bloodshed: the Art of Politics and Madam President: Shattering the Last Glass Ceiling, with her late husband, Tom Brazaitis. She is also the author of Founding Sisters and The Nineteenth Amendment. The mother of three grown sons, she lives in Washington, D. C. Visit her website.

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