Synopses & Reviews
In this candid and compelling memoir, the first lady of South Carolina reveals the private ordeal behind her very public betrayal—and offers inspiration for anyone struggling to keep faith during life’s most trying times.
She’s been a successful investment banker, a mother of four, and the campaign manager for one of American politics’ rising stars—her husband, Mark Sanford of South Carolina, once widely hailed as a possible candidate for president in 2012. Yet to most Americans, Jenny Sanford is best known for the one role she refused to play—that of conventional political spouse standing silently by while her husband went before the media and confessed his infidelity. Instead, she stayed true—to herself, to her faith, and to her highest ideals of parenthood and public service. She chose to let Mark Sanford deal with the embarrassment and political fallout from his own actions while focusing her own efforts privately on raising their children to be men of character, even in the face of the lies their father has told.
In Staying True, Jenny Sanford recalls her shock and anguish upon discovering that her husband was having an affair with a woman in Argentina, and the further pain when she learned—just a day ahead of most Americans—that he had not ended the affair when she believed he had. She reveals the source of her determination to be honest and forthright instead of the victim in the tabloid passion play that gripped the nation in June 2009.
But her story neither begins nor ends with Mark Sanford’s astounding fall from grace. Writing with uncommon candor from a deep well of spiritual strength, Sanford shares personal stories and life lessons from before and after she stepped into the public realm. She recounts the many stresses—as well as the myriad joys—that she experienced on a daily basis while living in the governmental spotlight. (Just try keeping four young boys out of mischief in the governor’s mansion!) And she describes the many ways that the seductions of power can drive apart even the most committed couples.
At every step along her journey, Jenny Sanford has made choices: She gave up her career, moved far from her home state of Illinois, even changed her religious practices. Every choice was a glad concession to harmonious married life and, in some cases, to the support of her husband’s political aspirations. But the one thing she never gave up was her sense of self, her inner moral compass. Her remarkable poise and decency make her a role model for men and women alike. Her story will empower anyone who has fought to maintain independence and integrity—within a marriage or elsewhere in life.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Jenny Sullivan Sanford was born and raised in Winnetka, Illinois. A graduate of Georgetown University, she now lives on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, with her four sons.
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
1. Many people feel that memoir is a compelling genre because real life is sometimes stranger than fiction. Were you
interested in Jenny Sanford’s memoir because of the wellpublicized events it chronicles? Did the book satisfy your
hope for details about how she dealt with this difficult time in her life?
2. Staying True chronicles the long span of the Sanford marriage— more than twenty years from the day they met—
yet Jenny Sanford chose to begin and end the book with events from the summer of 2009. Do you feel this drew you into the story? Kept you in suspense? Or dealt up- front with what many people already knew about Mrs. Sanford? How did the author’s storytelling decisions affect your reading experience?
3. Jenny Sanford has said that she hopes that telling her story will help other readers who are in the throes of a difficult
time in their lives, and that the book will help others stay true to their deepest-held values in order to make decisions that are right for them; it is not meant to be prescriptive. Still, did you learn anything from Mrs. Sanford? Do you feel that you might better be able to weather your personal storms for having read about the way she dealt with her own?
4. Deep religious faith gave Jenny Sanford great comfort throughout the marital ordeal described in this book and
has been a guiding force throughout her life. Has your own faith provided you similar comfort in trying times? How do
you think Jenny’s experience would have been different without this central anchor in her life?
5. When faced with the decision to stay or to leave after discovering a husband’s infidelity, so many women feel trapped by their circumstances. For some it’s a financial issue, for others, the needs of their children or families complicate their decision. What do you think trapped Jenny Sanford in place?
6. In late 2009, Jenny Sanford filed for divorce and in early 2010, the divorce was granted. Because she felt that she had given Mark Sanford every opportunity to do right by their marriage and because she did not act rashly when she first learned of his betrayal, she felt great peace in making the decision to divorce. Does the news of the Sanford divorce surprise you? Do you think you would have ultimately come to the same decision?
7. Being a mother has made Jenny Sanford’s life richer than she could have imagined, but being a mother also complicated things when she was forced to confront the problems in her marriage; she very much wanted to teach her children about both forgiveness and acting with dignity, two things that were, at times, hard to reconcile. Do you think she has provided a good role model for her sons in this regard?
8. If you are a mother, do you think that role colors your ability to make decisions and/or complicates your idea of right and wrong?
9. Consider the different ways that the Sanfords nurtured or deflected friendships in their lives and the way that they then leaned on or isolated themselves from friends during this difficult time. Do their experiences help you see your own friendships more clearly and/or encourage you to be more or less appreciative of your friends?
10. Jenny Sanford provides an up- close perspective on gubernatorial and congressional politics. What do you think of politics and politicians in light of what she reveals?
11. Do you feel that the ego stroking and lack of privacy that come with being a political figure contributed to Mark Sanford’s actions? How do you think political stresses affected Jenny and the marriage in general?
12. Which aspects of Jenny Sanford’s personality do you identify with most? With which do you identify with the least?
13. How has Staying True impacted you? Do Jenny Sanford’s choices and decisions change the way you think about your own life story?