Lee Woodruff's new book, "Those We Love Most," is an intricate web of family relationships, buried secrets and what's it like to suffer through a tragedy and make it out the other side.
Woodruff says she's fascinated by the concept of resilience.
"This is a story of resilience because that's what families do," Woodruff said to the crowded room of the Darien Community Association on Sept. 11. "It's that pebble that gets dropped in the pond and the ripples affect everyone."
The book follows Maura Corrigan, a young mother of three who's happily married to her college sweetheart. Her world is turned on its head, however, when she's walking her 9-year-old son James to school and texting at the same time. James darts out into the street and is hit by Alex, a 17-year-old neighbor. The story delves into what happens in the wake of the accident.
"I wanted it to be a cautionary tale," Woodruff said. "I thought that moment was one we could all see ourselves in. That moment we just want to do that one extra thing and we'll all be OK. We all grow up as teenagers and we're impervious, but everybody takes their eye off the ball sometimes. How do your forgive yourself afterward? And what secrets do you keep?"
Former Selectman Callie Sullivan, a longtime friend of Woodruff's, said her writing is "very specific and very real." She dared the audience to recognize themselves in her writing.
"A lot of stuff happens in your 40s and 50s, and it's really special to have a good friend," Sullivan said of Woodruff.
The book is dedicated to "Prince Liam," the late son of Woodruff's friend Gretchen. He passed away from cancer at just 5 years old.
"Liam is in no way an influence for this book, but ... when Liam died in [Gretchen's] arms, she never once said the c-word. They had a beautiful conversation, and, with permission, I tweaked it and it's become a conversation in this book. Because it's that complete line between beautiful and awful. It's what you hope your parents would say to you, or you child would say to you in those final moments," Woorduff said.
Woodruff began an eight-week, cross-country book tour in Darien to promote her new book, which is her first work of fiction and geared towards women, and said fiction comes with its own challenges.
"To make a story out of nothing and make it all stick is something that's very different from writing a memoir," Woodruff admitted, adding that she's always wanted to write fiction.
"I wish there was someone [in college] who told me that I was going to be miserable where I was going, that I'd be hiding pages of a novel in my desk and reading in my cubicle while I pretended to do work," Woodruff said laughing. "But we keep shedding our skins to keep moving forward to the person we've always wanted to be."
When asked by an audience member for advice for those women out there who feel like they've lost themselves among caring for family and friends, Woodruff said "It's so easy to lose ourselves. But sometimes you need to tell yourself you're doing the best you can do."
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