RUTH, A PORTRAIT by Patricia Cornwell


The Story of Ruth Bell Graham
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 A syrupy but engaging biography of the famous preacher's irrepressible wife. This is bestselling novelist Cornwell's (Unnatural Exposure, p. 759, etc.) second attempt at a biography of her mentor, 77-year- old Ruth Bell Graham, wife of evangelist Billy. The first try, published in 1982, caused the very private Ruth to distance herself from Cornwell for eight years. It's hard to imagine what Ruth could find objectionable about this version: She comes across as a near saint, enduring a dangerous mission childhood in China, terrible migraine headaches as an adult (of which she ``never complained''), and marriage to a mostly absent husband. Graham himself doesn't come off so well in this telling, seeming at times imperious or callous, even leaving a feverish Ruth alone for days, right after their honeymoon, when he received an invitation to preach (in his bestselling autobiography, Graham notes that, after all, she ``recovered quickly''). The book is filled with the tales of Ruth's quiet and heroic efforts to help others, visiting murderers and addicts in prison, aiding Vietnamese refugees, and assisting many students through college. These stories are touching, but they reveal less about the person of Ruth than they do about the genre of hagiography. In writing this book, Cornwell had complete access to Ruth's diaries but notes that, on a couple of key issues (like her migraines), Ruth censored her own journals. Yet whenever Cornwell allows this guise of saintly perfection to slip away, we glimpse a truly intriguing woman--one who designed their family's hand-hewed log cabin practically behind Billy's back, who learned to ride a motorcycle as an empty-nester, and who nearly killed herself in 1974 while rigging up a daredevil mudslide for her kids on their Carolina mountain. (b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 1997
ISBN: 0-385-48879-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1997


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