Book review: "The two / and", by Huma Abedin

Huma still fascinates, not because of the chilling details she exposes, but because her story serves as a parable, a flashing billboard o...


“I don’t know how I’m going to survive this,” she wrote in a notebook at the time. “Help me Lord help me my God.”

Abedin herself only comes to life on the page when she actually encounters Weiner – it is then that the reader also understands better to what extent her education as a faithful Muslim distinguished her in the circles in which she evolves. Weiner, who she started seeing at the age of 30, appears to be the one and only romantic relationship she’s ever had, aside from a few chaste dates that got nowhere. Weiner was witty, curious, knowledgeable and ambitious, and wooed her with all the strength of his charisma.

“When I was with him, I thought nothing bad could happen to me,” she wrote. Even before their wedding, she spotted an email to Weiner from a woman that she found inappropriate at best; but she moved forward anyway, despite other warning signs including her family’s obvious lack of enthusiasm and her own burst of tears shortly before a small Islamic wedding ceremony. Abedin does not examine her dissociation from her own feelings, but describes it: Twice in the book she remembers noticing that she was crying only after receiving other sensory information – hearing the sound of sobs or detecting tears on his cheeks.

What Abedin offering is an unwavering recitation of the blows she took: the polite but cold demands that she and her husband don’t show their faces at a social event or a food bank where they have found solace in doing volunteering; a humiliating and terrifying investigation by Children’s Services that threatened the custody of their young son; confirmation, from colleagues close to the Clinton campaign team, that yes, the latest news regarding emails on Weiner’s laptop – which were by Huma – could be decisive in such a tight race.

The catalog of her Job-like suffering – the shame to which she was subjected for actions other than her own – is sometimes excruciating to read; but it’s as if by saying these episodes out loud, she makes sure they don’t own her. Huma still fascinates, not because of the chilling details she exposes, but because her story serves as a parable, a flashing billboard of a reminder that no one is safe from suffering. She is far from having a psychological mind; but there is, one way or another, something comforting about his refusal to find the good sides of the story or pretend to share great wisdom as a person who is still standing regardless. The only way out, it seems, was to go through it, which may not be original, but has the advantage of being true.

The book sometimes suffers from Abedin’s apparent feeling that she cannot afford to appear less than holy to others. When she learns that colleagues on Clinton’s campaign team have called for her firing, she says, “I didn’t blame anyone for how they felt and I knew it couldn’t have been easy for any of them. ‘between them. Along with these staff members, Clinton was also disappointed that Abedin had given a press conference supporting her husband’s mayoral candidacy, even following uglier revelations; but she called Abedin at her house to tell him that she didn’t think Abedin should “pay a professional price for what was ultimately my husband’s mistake, not mine.”

Abedin, who is now divorced, reveals so much of her personal struggles, but clearly would never have written a political revealer, despite everything she has to say. His memoirs are a relief, an apology and an attempt at restitution. Despite all its darkness, it is also a gesture of gratitude.


Susan Dominus joined The Times as a Metro Columnist in 2007. She has been an editor for The Times Magazine since 2011.

BOTH / ET: A life in many worlds
By Huma Abedin
Illustrated. 544 pages. Scribner. $ 30.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Book review: "The two / and", by Huma Abedin
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