Reviews of Jenny Sanford's 'Staying True'

February 14, 2010 

Thedailybeast.com: In this chilling political and economic climate, the public's empathy only goes so far. Though ABC's (Barbara) Walters was obviously sympathetic to Jenny Sanford, Walters also asked her unsparing questions, as if she felt she had to satisfy a national audience worn out by power's transgressions. Why, Walters wanted to know, did you not feel alarmed when Mark refused to commit to fidelity in his wedding vows? When Jenny replied with almost a shrug - explaining in effect that, well, we were young - she betrayed a cold, heartless goal-oriented mentality that, ironically, her husband had abandoned in his mad affair with his Argentine girlfriend. At that moment, for all of Jenny's dignity and self-possession, you recoiled at the fact that she was trashing her husband for all the world to see in front of her four sons, who were right there on "20/20," whether they liked being there or not.

In that sense, for all their heartache and grief, these fallen women - like the "fallen" bankers, and the "fallen" auto executives, and the "fallen" politicians-fall into blue skies: bestselling books, high-profile television appearances, and increased wealth. ... The only truly injured spouse, it seems, is us.

- Lee Siegel, The Daily Beast's senior columnist

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Los Angeles Times: (I)t was my mother who first admonished me never to presume that "you know what really goes on in another person's marriage." Well, Mom, meet the Sanfords of South Carolina, whose odd and tumultuous union is now an open book, thanks to "Staying True," Jenny Sanford's memoir of a marriage that only can be described as the Contract With America meets Southern gothic. ...

The former first lady, a one-time investment banker with Lazard Freres, is smart, focused and very angry. For all the pious references to forgiveness stitched throughout the narrative, revenge is a barely concealed subtext.

And revenge she gets, but there's a good bit of collateral damage in what's just as obviously unintended self-revelation. ... Sanford spends a great deal of time describing her heroic efforts to accommodate what she repeatedly calls her husband's "frugality." Frugality! If this guy is frugal, the unreformed Ebenezer Scrooge was thrifty. ...

As Sanford informs us elsewhere in the book, "Women were made for sacrifice."

And boy does she sacrifice ... over and over and over. What's never clear from her extended exercise in score-settling is why? The man she describes is driven, self-absorbed, pathologically cheap and 360-degrees weird. She runs his political campaigns, puts up with his habitual absences and bears him four sons.

She even believes him, she tells us here, when late in their marriage he explains an unexpected trip alone to New York by saying he needs respite from the extra stress he is feeling because the hair on the top of his head is thinning.

Gimme a break.

If you believe that, you'll also believe Sanford really was looking for family property records when she ransacked her husband's desk while he was away on one of many hunting trips and found the file with his love letters. ... A merchandise trademark, a book with inspirational potential tailor-made for the lucrative evangelical speaking circuit, a network interview with Barbara Walters.

Not a bad launch for the woman-scorned brand.

-Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times

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Slate: The idea that Jenny Sanford wrote her memoir "Staying True" to mollify her sons, as she told the New York Times, is quite comical if you've actually read the book. There is no child who needs to know precisely when and how his father lied to his mother about the mistress in Argentina and how she watched him disintegrate into a pleading, heartsick fool. Sanford's tone is studiously not vengeful, and yet this book is an act of revenge. As well it should be, since the poor woman was married to the most doltish specimen of a husband this side of John Edwards - a fact she elaborates on in exquisite detail ...

What puts Stanford in a cad class of his own, however, is his complete misunderstanding of the companionate marriage. He treats his wife as a fishing buddy to whom he can confess absolutely everything rather than someone whose feelings he ever has to protect with some minor omissions. ...

Time and again he consults with Jenny about what he should do about Miss Argentina, soliciting both PR and relationship advice. "How'd I do?" he asked Jenny, after the press conference in which he pined for his "dear friend" in Argentina with whom "from a heart level, there was something real." Later, Jenny tried to convince him to give their marriage another year because if it didn't work out, the lady in Argentina probably wasn't going anywhere. ...

Can you imagine? Even Bill Clinton would know better than to run his options by Hillary: "Hey, Hill, I know Monica's pretty young. But I'm not getting any younger, and what if this is my last chance?"

All of this raises the obvious question: What was Jenny thinking? Why would a smart woman like her stay with this jerk for all those years (or even marry him in the first place, since there were early clues)?

Jenny is constantly explaining away her husband's behavior. The $25 bicycle was OK because "this was just part of who he was" and skipping out of Lamaze class was fine because "many fathers didn't attend birth in those days" - the 1990s.

At many points she drifts towards politics made him do it: His cheapness was a way of living out his ideal of fiscal responsibility; his lying was a response to the media's hunger to destroy reputations. ...

As it is, she comes across as remarkably devoid of bitterness and in a somewhat good mood. Is she truly so sanguine? Hard to tell. Her cheerfulness may have something to do with the stage of her separation from him - she's still busy justifying the last 20 years of her life. ... And somewhere, deep down, she must know that more than the tone, it's the details - the $25 bike, Lamaze, the diamond necklace - that will resonate.

- Hanna Rosin, Slate

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Quote of the week

"I am Jenny, hear me whine." - Anonymous online reader comment, reacting to Jenny Sanford's "Staying True" media tour

If you missed her

Soon-to-be-former S.C. first lady Sanford will be on the OnPoint! radio program at 6 p.m. Feb. 21 on WWDM 101.3FM.

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