How Not To Write A Mistress Memoir

Jun 28, 2012 • Books, Culture

What Really Happened between Rielle Hunter and John Edwards

Mistresses are under represented in non-fiction for good reason — they’re the home-wreckers, the sluts, the tramps. It’s no easy thing to make readers sympathetic to you when you decide to take a machete to someone else’s family. Mimi Alford proved that keeping the secret for decades before dishing is a good start. Certainly admitting naivete can help endear a sinner to the global jury.

But if Alford’s memoir is a guide offering suggestions on how to do this the right way, Rielle Hunter’s new memoir about her affair with disgraced presidential hopeful John Edwards is the opposite.

What Really Happened is more of a character assassination than it is an account of what happened. Unfortunatelly for Hunter, while the barbs are mostly directed at Edwards’ late wife — who died in 2010 after battling cancer for many years — the bulk of the damage is sustained by her beloved Johnny and the author.

According to Reuters, “Hunter blames Elizabeth Edwards for driving John Edwards to cheat. She describes Elizabeth Edwards in unflattering terms, calling her ‘crazy,’ ‘venomous,’ and a ‘witch on wheels.'”

In a brutal column on the Miami Herald, Margaret Carlson writes:

The only surprise in this book is Hunter giving full vent to her hatred for Elizabeth Edwards, John’s deceased wife, who had to cope with both the return of deadly cancer and Edwards’ affair, which she discovered little by little — a woman trailing Elizabeth’s husband everywhere with a camera, a secret mobile phone answered with “Hey, baby” and unexplained absences (Edwards once took his two youngest children to the mall so that they could run into Rielle). In Hunter’s telling, Elizabeth should have been fine with all this. Instead she is a “witch on wheels” who is crazy, venomous and unreasonable. Feeling bad that his wife’s cancer had returned in 2007, Edwards broke up with Hunter and held a press conference saying he would be with Elizabeth every step of the way. Less than 24 hours later, he called Hunter.

What makes this tell-all more noxious is that Edwards is complicit in the further humiliation of his children and his parents. He didn’t write the book, though some parts detailing Elizabeth’s reaction to Hunter had to come from him. But he has helped to promote it. After Edwards’ trial (at which he was acquitted on one count that he used campaign funds to keep his mistress), he announced from the courthouse steps his devotion to “my precious Quinn, whom I love more than any of you can imagine.” There was no such fulsome affection for his father, stricken beside him, or his daughter Cate, who lent him dignity every day walking into the courthouse.

A couple of weeks later, just before publicity for the book begins, Edwards takes Hunter and his daughter to a beach house in North Carolina to flirt, kiss and play in the sand. Turns out, lying low was for trial. Frolicking on the beach on Father’s Day weekend while his motherless children celebrated alone — that’s for the book.

Yikes. And yet despite all that they went through, according to ABC News, Rielle Hunter and John Edwards split last week.

“We are a family, but as of the end of last week John Edwards and I are no longer a couple. Not at all,” Hunter told George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America. “For me, for my part in it, it’s because I’m no longer interested in hiding it. Hiding our relationship.”

We hope it was worth it?