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Book review

Woodruff's first novel is powerful but ultimately hopeful

Sunday, November 4, 2012
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Book review


Lee Woodruff is author of “Those We Love Most.” (Cathrine White Photography)
Lee Woodruff is author of “Those We Love Most.” (Cathrine White Photography)

Lee Woodruff knows firsthand how a tragic event can suddenly and completely change your life. In January 2006, her husband, when he sustained shrapnel wounds from an improvised explosive device. He was not expected to live, but after many months of medical care and physical therapy has resumed his career in journalism.

This traumatic event was the basis of her first book, the New York Times best-seller “In an Instant,” which she wrote with her husband.

Family tragedy

Lee Woodruff, who grew up in Delmar and has a summer home in Lake George, has now written her first book of fiction, “Those We Love Most,” and it also deals with a sudden family tragedy that impacts numerous people and family members.

‘Those We Love Most’

Author: Lee Woodruff

Published by: Hyperion, 320 pages

How much: $26.99

The story begins on a perfect June morning as Maura Corrigan is walking her two children to their elementary school. “She was keenly aware of the scent of newly mown lawns and fertilized flower beds, the summery lift of the breeze off Lake Michigan, as if all of her senses were heightened.”

Lee Woodruff

WHERE: Schenectady County Public Library, 99 Clinton St., Schenectady

WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday

HOW MUCH: Free

MORE INFO: 388-4511

RELATED: The Open Door Bookstore will be offering a 20 percent discount on “Those We Love Most” until Tuesday. Call 346-2719

A few minutes later, though, her perfect suburban world will be shattered and the stress will also deeply affect her marriage and even the marriage of her parents.

Woodruff has done a nice job of creating a strong emotional drama that builds from one chapter to the next. The book alternately focuses on Maura; her husband, Pete; and Maura’s parents, Margaret and Roger.

It’s a sad book with little humor, but it’s powerfully written and it will leave you emotionally exhausted as the lives of these people you care about sometimes come unraveled.

As you read along, you begin to see the flaws of all the characters and to feel their isolation. These are characters who all have secrets and are unwilling or unable to reveal them to others, but this tragedy will force them to confront who they really are.

The book is filled with infidelity and alcoholism, but it is also hopeful to see so many of the characters begin to live a more genuine and less superficial life.

Woodruff shows the back story of the characters so we can see them as fully human and not as stereotypes.

Crucial realization

At one point, Maura realizes how debilitating her secrets have become and how they have stifled her own development as a person and how they have weakened her marriage.

She begins to realize that she and her family are like so many other strangers in the world struggling to live decent lives.

“Each of us held things that weighed us down, to different degrees, she thought. No one was exempt. All of us whizzing by each other on a city street or highway, wearing our polite public masks, while the internal scars, the transgressions and the sadness of egregious loss, clung to us on the inside like trace elements.”

Maura also comes to the realization that tragedy is important in our lives. “The rough patches and the harder things you endured were far more useful and valuable to have survived than the long stretches of calm and peace. Mastering the turbulence was how you achieved longevity, by simply making it through, by outlasting the bad.”

 
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