D.A. Ball
May 13, 1994 AT 04:00 AM EDT

”I…never liked country music: My life was too much like a country song.” Bill Clinton’s mom, a good old Arkansas gal, was appropriately nicknamed ”Ruffian” after a racehorse that wouldn’t quit the race even after breaking a leg. Virginia Kelley, who was no quitter, passed that virtue on to her son and inspires us with it in this unpretentious story of her life, Leading with My Heart: My life. And what a story! Five marriages to four men, one of whom was an alcoholic (she once blacked out a tooth and donned ragged clothes to try to shame her husband out of a bar), breast cancer, an abusive husband (whom young Bill finally confronted), gambling, and coming to terms with another woman as forceful as herself: Hillary. Virginia once threatened to blow the whistle on some corrupt Arkansas troopers. (Might that have ignited a grudge?) Co-writer James Morgan says that while working with Virginia, ”we didn’t have to go through chapter after chapter of dull stuff to get to the lively parts.” Neither will the reader. Virginia died early this year; once you’ve read her book, you’ll miss her.

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