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Jenny Sanford's 'Staying True': A Review

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Hell hath no fury like a political wife scorned.

It was true with Elizabeth Edwards, who took her husband John to task in her most recent book, Resilience, and it’s certainly true with Jenny Sanford. You remember Sanford – she’s the wife of South Carolina governor Mark Sanford. (You know, the one who told his staff and his family that he was going to go hike on the Appalachian Trail and instead flew to South America to see his girlfriend.) Jenny Sanford remained quiet during the ensuing media hullabaloo, letting the press skewer her husband while she retreated to the family’s beach house with their four boys.

Now it’s her turn to do the skewering, and boy, does she let him have it. In her by turns funny, thoughtful, and introspective memoir, Staying True (which goes on sale today), Sanford looks back at her marriage and her husband, giving, to her credit, what seems to be a well-rounded portrait of him. Here we have not just a philanderer but a go-getter, a restless man with a zest for life. An incredible cheapskate. A loving son and brother. A tireless campaigner.  A strict, if largely absent, father. Here are some of the highlights (or, rather, the lowlights):

How he was a jerk early on: The first Thanksgiving they were married, they joined Mark’s family at the Sanford farm — where Mark informed her he’d be bunking with his brothers, not with her. “I’ve always slept with my brothers and I don’t see why that has to change now that we’re married,” he told her.

How he pinched pennies: One year, for her birthday, he gave her a drawing of half a bike; for Christmas, he drew the other half. A few months later he handed her a $25 used bike. Then there was the time he had a staffer pick out a necklace for her—but when he saw her wearing it, he said, “That is what I spent all that money on? I hope you kept the box!” He returned the jewelry the next day. And he was once too cheap to hire an exterminator when their Charleston house was infested with bats.

How his disregard for her turned callous: When Sanford needed a tubal ligation (she had been through four difficult pregnancies and could not risk another), she went to the hospital alone. “As I was wheeled in for surgery, the nurse asked me why I didn’t have anyone with me for support.” And shortly after  she discovered his long-running affair, he began “pestering me for permission to see his lover…so he could find the ‘key to his heart.'” When she demurred — she knew she could forgive him for what had happened, but condoning continued adultery was another matter — he asked her, “Do you want to wake up when you are eighty and know you never had a heart connection?”

People will no doubt criticize Jenny Sanford for writing this book and airing so much dirty laundry about her  husband, a man once buzzed about as a presidential contender. But I think he had it coming (in fact, I think the very idea of using a book as revenge is pretty delicious.) He publicly humiliated her, not once but time and time again over the last year. She has every right to humiliate him. That’s how I see it, anyway. You?