Lee Woodruff writes like she speaks. Softly and eloquently, but with pointed urgency that comes out in all the right places, soothed over by humorous anecdotes that we all can relate to. She also has a way of being able to skillfully drift between the past and the present, showing us everything that leads up to the current moment.
She used this style when co-authoring the NY Times Best Seller In an Instant with her husband Bob Woodruff. That book reflected the story of the horrible day that she got the call that her husband Bob, an ABC News co-anchor, on assignment in Iraq, had been seriously injured by the explosion of a roadside bomb. At the time of the call it was unknown if he was going to make it, and if he did he might have serious permanent brain impairment. As Lee traveled to his side and aided his recovery, the book seamlessly danced between the story of their romance that played in her mind; the concern for his current well being and that of their children; and the realization that her life may have been forever changed. She instantly entered the role of Caregiver to someone with a serious brain injury…which eventually caused her to become a speaker for Veterans with brain injuries. It was in that capacity that I heard her speak at a National Caregivers Conference. I liked her as a speaker and then bought In an Instant – and that was when I realized that she speaks like she writes – with vulnerable honesty and gentle strength born of experience.
She brings that strength to the characters in her first novel, Those We Love Most. For Margaret, the first character that we meet in the story, and the heroine of sorts, the journey also begins with a phone call. A call telling her that her grandson has been hit by a car. And then, one by one Woodruff introduces us to the other members of Margaret’s family, who are all touched by this tragedy, and in addition we meet the young teenage driver of the car, who somehow seems to be drawn to them by fate. But the grief and anguish they are going through seems overshadowed by the secrets that each of them is hiding. The characters are real – flawed – torn by guilt and anger – and very human. As you learn the secrets of each one’s life, you find yourself wanting to be able to judge them – but being unable to do so, because you can empathize with them as well. It is at that point that you find yourself rooting for them to rise above this tragedy and re-discover who they once were.
Woodruff firmly establishes herself as a novelist with Those We Love Most. Her characters are three-dimensional and you are emotionally drawn into the story within the first three pages – and I dare you to put it down after that! It is a timeless story of the human condition and how we rise above the difficult challenges that life throws our way.
Those We Love Most, Voice/Hyperion Books, Hard Cover and e-book, 305 pages.
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