RALEIGH &mash; Elizabeth Edwards came home Saturday, to her bookstore, to the embrace of people who loved her before the rest of America ever met her.
In her first public reading of her new book "Resilience," Elizabeth Edwards came to Quail Ridge Books, the bookstore where she shopped when she raised her children not five miles away.
Here, she didn't appear as the wife of a failed politician who talks with Oprah Winfrey about her husband's infidelity. She is not the woman living in a big house outside Chapel Hill while her husband, former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, travels abroad to work on housing the poor. No one asked during the reading about John Edwards, his former mistress, Rielle Hunter, or the child many believe they conceived.
"The affair has claimed too much of the spotlight," Maureen Sherbondy, a Raleigh resident who came to the signing, said afterward. "There is so much more to her, to the book."
On Saturday, Elizabeth Edwards was the harried mother who rushed to the reading after a son's ballgame. The baby boomer forced to pull her glasses to the tip of her nose to make out words she had written. The ferocious Tar Heel fan in baby-blue sweater and jeans. A woman being killed by cancer, who no longer bothers to fix her hair to hide bald spots.
Edwards' book has stirred some sharp criticism. Many questioned what drove her to write about such intimate matters. Others have accused her of trying to punish John Edwards by writing the book. (She finds the claim so ridiculous she laughs when asked; she said the book was never meant to punish him.)
Others have accused her of exposing her children to matters they shouldn't have to understand. (Edwards said her children are already aware of their family's troubles and that she can't shield them from the reports already on the Internet)
The criticism has stung, Edwards admitted in an interview with The News & Observer before her talk.
"People feel they have license to tell me how I should have reacted and responded," Edwards said. "This story I'm telling is my own and no one else's, and no one can decide how I should tell it."
Edwards committed to writing the book before she learned of her husband's affair. When she learned of it, she said she thought about abandoning the project. In the end, she decided that would run counter to her history of facing the unspeakable and finding a way to live with it. That philosophy is, in fact, the theme of "Resilience."
She asked herself: "How much of my life will I let this take way?"
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