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Staying True
Staying True
Jenny Sanford
Ballantine Books, 2010
240 pp., $25.00

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Naomi Schaefer Riley


The Story of a Marriage

Jenny Sanford’s memoir.

When a marriage ends, it is hard not to wonder who changed. Was it the husband? The wife? Both? Reading Jenny Sanford's account of her marriage to, and separation from, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, it is clear that she thinks he changed. The rambling June 2009 press conference he gave—admitting that he was not "hiking the Appalachian trail" (as his staff originally claimed), but meeting his Argentinian lover—was not what she had expected from the man she married two decades earlier.

While no one knows what really happens inside a marriage, it is safe to say that Mark Sanford did not behave well. The title of his wife's book, Staying True, refers to her. She stayed true to herself, her marriage, her family, and her ideals. He did not. But when a marriage ends, it is also hard not to wonder whether there were early signs that it would not turn out well. And every one of the mostly female readers of Staying True will have a moment when she thinks, That's when I would have dropped him like a hot potato. For me the moment came on page 25, when I learned that during their engagement, Mr. Sanford asked Mrs. Sanford to meet him at a restaurant for dinner "and bring a list of … lifetime goals for us to discuss." He came with several pages of notes, with priorities including making a lot of money, bicycling across America, beating his brother at tennis, and becoming a senator.

What? He didn't want to be a fireman too?

The other list Mr. Sanford brought with him that evening was one of "spiritual goals," referencing specific Bible verses that he aspired to live by. According to Mrs. Sanford, they included Galatians 5:22-23: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." And Matthew 5:16: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and praise your Father in heaven." And Proverbs 16:18: "Pride goeth …." (Well, maybe not.)

Mrs. Sanford herself never had ...

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