Jenny Sanford's book "Staying True" hits stores today, and reviews are pouring in from all over the web. The consensus? Sanford is smart, pointed, and funny, and there is no disagreement about how justified the first lady of South Carolina is in coming out with the dirty details of her marriage to, as she portrays him, the bizarre and oftentimes cruel Mark Sanford.
Most reviews draw attention to the signs that the Sanfords' marriage was doomed from the start. Early this week, details from an upcoming 20/20 interview with Jenny Sanford were released, revealing that her husband removed the word "faithful" from their wedding vows, and that, early on in their marriage, he gave her the promise of half a bike for her birthday, then the other half on Christmas, only to give her a $25 used bicycle months later.
Other bizarre revelations include the story of a diamond necklace the governor gave to Jenny for her birthday one year, which he then took back, saying, "That is what I spent all that money on?! I hope you kept the box." Later on, Sanford refused to go to his wife's grandfather's funeral, "despite her tearful pleading," as the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus reports. The stories go on and on, and one starts to wonder how Ms. Sanford could have ignored all the warning signs.
Marcus ends her review with disappointment in Jenny Sanford's revelations about herself:
[T]he most disappointing part of "Staying True" is that, consciously or not, Jenny Sanford reveals her own complicity -- not in facilitating her husband's affair, but in allowing herself to be treated so badly for so long.
The Los Angeles Times's Tim Rutten agrees. At one point in the book, Sanford declares that "women were made for sacrifice." Rutten wonders:
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.
CNN, however, lauds Jenny Sanford's bravery in writing the book, describing it as the latest in a trend of books "written by wives betrayed by their prominent husbands." Sanford, Elizabeth Edwards, and others should be praised for "taking back the story," CNN contends, and choosing "to be part of the conversation and not just the topic of it."
The New York Times's Janet Maslin also offers praise to the first lady:
"Staying True" isn't a book full of recriminations; it's the portrait of a smart, steadfast woman who found herself in a terrible situation.
Maslin particularly admires Sanford's sense of humor throughout the embarrassing revelation of her husband's infidelity. She points to the "hiking the Appalachian Trail jokes" that Ms. Sanford and her friends were able to make (referring to his "alibi" when he turned out to have gone missing with his mistress), resulting in an "unexpectedly lighthearted" tone that "Staying True" at times has.
Whether Sanford's memoir reveals her weakness in staying in a horrible relationship or her strength in writing about it, "Staying True" will be talked about for a long time.
In a similar situation, would you stay or would you go?