Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
What is it like to be the wife of the preacher to the presidents, the peripatetic world evangelist Billy Graham? In this new version of her first book, published in 1983, popular crime novelist Patricia Cornwell, a long-time friend of the Graham family, draws an intimate and engaging portrait of a strong woman whose life is deeply informed by her religious faith. Relying on conversations with Ruth Bell Graham and anecdotes from Ruth Graham's life with Billy Graham, Cornwell chronicles the life of Ruth Graham from her childhood years as the daughter of medical missionaries in China to her life as the woman at the side of Billy Graham. As the child of these missionaries, Ruth Graham's strong, indomitable will was shaped by the hardships which her family faced as Christians in a country whose government opposed the presence of Christians. This biography also tells of Ruth Graham's great desire to be a missionary to Tibet, and the ways in which her dreams were altered when she met Billy Graham at Wheaton College in 1940. Cornwell's biography illuminates the life of a woman whose devotion to husband and family is an expression of her devotion to God. Ruth Graham also emerges in this book as a strong-willed mother who seeks to teach her children about the love and compassion of God through her own example. Cornwell's book will serve as an ideal companion volume to Billy Graham's just-released autobiography, Just As I Am. (Sept.)
A study of evangelist Billy Graham's wife from an old family friend -- Edgar Award-winning author Cornwell.
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 womanone 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.