<b>Elizabeth Edwards' survival stories</b> Parents, political junkies and life's survivors that is, most of us will be caught up in the stories told by Elizabeth Edwards in Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers. This elegant memoir begins as Edwards discovers a lump in her breast just two weeks before the 2004 presidential election in which her husband, John Edwards, was the Democratic vice presidential nominee. Showing the pluck, smarts, self-depreciating humor and grace that she seems to display no matter the situation, Edwards puts off the biopsy until votes are counted, then discovers she has breast cancer. That cataclysmic event triggers memories of the many strangers, relatives and friends who have loaned Edwards the use of their metaphoric walking stick to help her get a bit further on life's journey.

She discusses growing up on military bases across America and in Japan as the daughter of a naval aviator, her marriage to a politician, their grief after losing their cherished teenage son Wade in a car accident, helping their surviving daughter cope and move on to Princeton, and their decision to have two more children, Emma Claire and Jack. As Edwards accompanies her husband on the campaign trail as senate, vice presidential and presidential candidate, the former attorney also hosts lunches, speaks at dinners, hugs people, answers endless questions from ordinary citizens who hope for a better life, and leans on their kindness, too.

Moving from city to city each night, Edwards realizes that it's the small gestures, the thoughtful service of the garbagemen, the compassionate doctor and the grocery bagger, neighbors and fellow PTA members who post on a grief bulletin board, as much as powerful people in Washington, that ease her way in the world. Everywhere I go, people smile back at me, she writes, so this . . . is a shout from up on the tightrope: thank you all.

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