A Good Fight

A Good Fight

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by Sarah Brady, Merrill McLoughlin

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"Sarah Brady's greatest ambition while growing up was to be June Cleaver. She wanted to be a wife and mother, to have a happy, peaceful home filled with the laughter of family and friends, to watch her children grow up surrounded by the same warmth and security she knew as a child." "It was not to be. In January 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed Sarah's husband,… See more details below


"Sarah Brady's greatest ambition while growing up was to be June Cleaver. She wanted to be a wife and mother, to have a happy, peaceful home filled with the laughter of family and friends, to watch her children grow up surrounded by the same warmth and security she knew as a child." "It was not to be. In January 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed Sarah's husband, James Brady, as his White House press secretary. And on March 31 of that year, a would-be assassin named John Hinckley fired six shots at the president, severely wounding him and taking down Jim Brady as well. One of Hinckley's bullets tore through Jim's brain, causing devastating damage that changed their lives forever." A Good Fight is Sarah Brady's own plainspoken, moving story of what happened to her, to Jim, and to their son, Scott, who was just two when his father was shot. It's a story of great terror, pain and dislocation, but also of triumph, love and transformation. Above all, it's a story about how you cannot know what life will bring.

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Post
[Brady] presents a vision of marriage and family life that is recognizably human...the emotional thrust of the book is unmistakable, and devastating.
offers an inspiring story of coping with personal challenges.
Library Journal
Not primarily a book about the politics of gun legislation. It is more about her inspiring determination and courage.
a personal story of a woman's love for her husband and son and how their family pulled through the tough times.
Rocky Mountain News
Never feeling sorry for herself, Brady writes with humor, perceptiveness and modest prose. A Good Fight is a quiet, dramatic triumph.
Publishers Weekly
Readers get an intimate look at the events, both personal and professional, that shaped Brady's political career and the direction of U.S. gun legislation in this memoir of the lobbying life. She begins her story on March 30, 1981, when her husband, White House Press Secretary James Brady, was shot in an assassination attempt on President Reagan. His injury and recuperation, filled with close calls and setbacks, takes her on a journey that includes 15 years at the lobbying group Handgun Control, first as a volunteer, then as a board member and finally as its chair until 1996. Brady gives a detailed, suspenseful account of the struggle to pass the Brady bill, a handgun control law finally signed in 1993. Readers will take special interest in her recollections of high-profile politicians. Though she doesn't sling mud, Brady openly expresses her frustration with those who hindered the bill. A lifelong Republican (and an admirer of Reagan), Brady became disillusioned when Bush the elder effectively blocked passage of the bill, and she endorsed Clinton in 1992. Writing in unpretentious prose, she leads the reader from one fight to the next without stopping to feel sorry for herself even in the midst of husband's disability and her own current battle with lung cancer. The book will likely appeal to political enthusiasts and ardent gun-control supporters, and, though Brady is neither as iconoclastic nor as captivating a writer as Katharine Graham, fans of Graham's Personal History may enjoy this story of a determined woman in a male-dominated Washington. 8 pages b&w photos not seen by PW. (May) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Brady's autobiography centers on one pivotal event<-->the March 31, 1980 attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, the same shooting that disabled her husband. She describes their lives before and after the shooting, emphasizing how the unexpected can change the life-course of an entire family. She specifically details her activities as an anti-gun activist, and reacts to her recent cancer diagnosis. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
The spirited autobiography of the noted gun-control advocate and onetime Republican loyalist. A good fight, indeed: Brady emerges from these pages as nothing if not a scrapper, unwilling to give in to the raft of bad luck that's been her lot. First, of course, there was the shooting of her husband Jim, brain-damaged and confined to a wheelchair, thanks to would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley. Second was the slow discovery that their young son Scott suffered from sensory integration problems, which made him "something of a handful, to put it mildly." Third, and one of the most affecting moments of Brady's narrative, was her long and ongoing battle against lung cancer, brought on, she admits, by years of smoking and a once-insurmountable addiction to tobacco. Chapter by chapter, she meets all these tests head-on, writing of her work in agitating for national gun-control legislation, in helping Scott and Jim go about the difficult business of daily life, and of wrestling with her own doubts and shortcomings. Her mood is largely cheerful and even homey ("We always have beef for Christmas dinner"), though she fires off a few zingers here and there ("Charlton Heston, who later would become my chief adversary . . . struck me-I remember it vividly-as a pompous ass"). Brady tends toward platitude, confining her reflections on matters such as the Hinckley attempt to easily digested morsels: "God only knows what demons drove him to do what he did." But that's beside the point, and by the end, all but the most cynical reader will be rooting for Brady-and, likely, for the causes she espouses. Self-aware and committed, Brady offers an extended pep talk for women facing crises of their own, aswell as a personal memoir-and it works on both levels.

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That evening, the driver and aide first took Jim to the White House, then came back and got Dorothy and me and a few others and drove us to the Illinois ball. Now as anyone who has ever been to an Inaugural ball knows, it is not at all what you expect. It is not an elegant affair with beautiful music and gorgeously dressed people twirling around the room. It's more like a huge stand-up cocktail party, with tons of people bumping into each other and standing in lines to get a drink. But it was fun, nonetheless.

I brought Dorothy home fairly early, and I never saw or heard most of our guests come in that night. But the next morning, I did notice that they had brought home a pretty impressive cache of souvenirs--not just napkins or little plastic cups commemorating the occasion, but also several acrylic tables decorated with the Presidential seal. I, personally, didn't even get a napkin....

That winter, Jim worked extremely hard. He loved every minute of it, of course--was having the time of his life. Almost every night, he was on television, and Scott loved to watch him. He was a little confused, though, about exactly what his father did for a living. He thought Jim was working for Ronald McDonald. He had a Ronald McDonald puppet, and in his mind, the two Ronalds were one and the same.

Many nights, there were dinners and other affairs that both Jim and I had to attend together. The parties--especially the embassy affairs--became more and more exotic. I couldn't help noticing how different I was in many small ways from the people we started associating with as soon as Jim became White House press secretary. The truth is that it was a lifestyle I wouldn't have chosen for myself. I like to eat earlier, I like to go to bed earlier. I like things much more casual. I'd much rather stay home. I know this sounds terrible, but there it is. I don't like big formal cocktail parties. I like small, casual affairs with friends. I really don't feel comfortable in big groups of people I don't know. But for those first few months, in the winter of 1981, it was all new, and wonderfully exciting. It was a true whirlwind, and that's the way I still see it in my mind's eye.

And it lasted fewer than 70 days.

Along with that bottle of champagne Jody Powell had left in Jim's office, he had also left a second gift, which had been passed down to him by Ron Nessen, President Ford's press secretary. It was a hideous bulletproof vest of blue brocade, clearly designed to be worn under a tuxedo. Pinned to it was a note: "Jim, it's not the guns that'll get you in this job; it's the gnats and the ants," meaning the endless tiny annoyances that came with the position.

On Inaugural Day, we laughed, as Jody had meant us to. But it was the bullets that got Jim Brady.

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