Those We Love Most by Lee Woodruff
Published by Voice ISBN 9781401341978
Trade paperback, $14.99, 336 pages
I love a book that has such powerful emotional honesty that you just can't help becoming invested in it. CBS This Morning journalist Lee Woodruff's first novel, Those We Love Most, is one of those books.
This is a multigenerational story, about Maura, wife and mom to three young children, and her mother Margaret. A moment of inattention by Maura forever changes their lives, one that will cause her to feel incredible guilt and pain. The tragedy that follows is compounded by the secret of betrayal that Maura carries.
Margaret is a rock for her daughter, doing all she can to get her and the family through the aftermath of a beloved child's death. She loves her husband Roger, and when he faces a health crisis, she is also forced to face a secret that he has been hiding from her, one that if she were honest with herself, she already knew.
This is a novel about how hard it is to be married, and the resilience of the human spirit. Margaret describes her life with Roger after many years together:
"The patterns and paths of their life together, especially in the past decade, had become more and more divergent. She had her set schedule: gardening, bridge, exercise, and the occasional lunch with friends. Being a devoted grandmother, a role of which she was immensely proud, also took up a large portion of her time....But Roger spent too much time in the office at his stage in life, in her opinion."
Margaret is a character that many women will relate to: the one who keeps things together, who never falls apart, soldiers through everything.
"Margaret believed it was wife's job to keep the exterior facade spackled and impenetrable, to prevent the cracks from showing on the outside. In her mind, a classy woman never broke rank."
Maura and her husband Pete had their own problems before the tragedy.
"Things had been operating on this half-speed for a while, Maura acknowledged, each of them heading down an easy slipstream in marriage where the valuable, intimate parts begin to erode in a tidal wave of banality."
Woodruff succeeds in bringing these women to life; indeed, they are women you feel that you know in your own life. Her observations about marriage at its different stages will resonate with many women.
The writing is insightful, and the scenes at the hospital will break your heart. It is clear that Woodruff drew on her own experiences with her husband ABC Bob Woodruff's traumatic brain injuries suffered during the Iraq War to write these emotional passages.
I can't remembered being so viscerally affected by a novel; Woodruff's first work of fiction is emotional, heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting. This is a book I will recommend to anyone looking for a story to lose yourself in.
rating 5 of 5
Here is a YouTube video of Lee Woodruff discussing Those We Love Most
Lee Woodruff's website is here.