Annie Barrett
May 07, 2009 AT 12:00 PM EDT

The jaded among us [raises hand] might have heard about Elizabeth Edwards’ much-touted appearance on Oprah today and thought, “Well, well, what a convenient way for one to plug one’s new book.” But it’s hard to keep up that bias after hearing Edwards recall how her 10-year-old daughter recently asked her, “Did you know romaine lettuce was good for cancer?” The terminally ill Elizabeth struck the strongest chord when she put her husband’s affair with Rielle Hunter in perspective as it concerned her children: “Maybe the cancer’s a bigger thing in their lives than this woman passing through.”

Their interview definitely picked up steam as it went on — the entire premise was awkward given that both Elizabeth and John were there to greet Oprah with hugs at the front door before the two women would proceed to discuss John’s infidelity at length inside the Edwards’ home. “He’s not going anywhere — I just saw him in the kitchen,” Oprah joked uncomfortably at one point. The most noteworthy part, for me, was when Edwards attempted to justify the photo of her husband holding Rielle Hunter’s baby, outside a hotel room at night, thusly: “We’re politicians. Holding babies is our business.” Cringe.

The meat of their discussion, though, was really Elizabeth’s game plan for how she should react to the whole ordeal. She only showed anger at one point, when she seemed to address Hunter (who Edwards refused to call by name) directly: “You can’t just knock on the door, say ‘You’re out, I’m in. How ’bout your husband, honey?’… There’s no excuse for women to do this.” Edwards was much easier on her husband. “I’ve done terrible things, too. Who am I to say only this one thing counts?” she asked. “I want to protect him.”

Toward the end of the hour, Oprah kept teasing her teeny tiny interview with John Edwards with clips featuring extended silences that didn’t really happen that way in real life. Maddening! But then there the former senator was, bragging about having played basketball with President Obama in his home’s full court. Regarding his wife’s book, Resilience (in which she recounts how she stood by her husband during his failed presidential campaign), “She definitely wrote it,” said John. That’s a relief.

Did you see Elizabeth Edwards on Oprah? What did you think?

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