'WE CAN DO TOGETHER' | A review Ohio's former first lady remembers public life

Dagmar Braun Celeste reports the memories she shared with her ex-husband with an unbiased touch.
"We Can Do Together" by Dagmar Braun Celeste (Kent State University Press, $18)
Almost two decades after she moved out of the Governor's Mansion, Dagmar Braun Celeste still leaves a lasting mark on the state.
Ohioans can still thank her for the state's "At the heart of it all" motto and for giving them something to gossip about during her well-publicized falling out with former Governor Dick Celeste.
"We Can Do Together" is a vibrant transcript of those memories and more, providing readers with a rare and candid peek inside public life.
Celeste intersperses short diary entries into a complete narrative of her life, guiding the reader on a journey from scared adolescence in war-torn Europe to the many personal and professional triumphs she enjoyed in Ohio.
At her best, Celeste's writing is flush with vivid imagery and strong detail, and she wields both delight and tragedy nimbly.
It is easy to imagine her as a child, cowering in a cave for safety while bombs ravaged her village, or the way her fresh-baked bread used to smell on weekend cabin retreats with her family. Celeste writes with a warm hand, but at times, the book is heavy with extraneous color and irrelevant specifics.
On her divorce
In some ways, she saves the discussion of her divorce with former Governor Dick Celeste the same labored touch. Unfortunately, that might have been the most enticing subject for many prospective readers.
She doesn't seem to have omitted them for an aversion to exposing any of her own shortcomings (she spends a good amount of time explaining her bouts with mental illness), but rather for the protection of others -- most notably those who slept with her husband.
Celeste penned the book over a 10-year span in which she endured enormous changes, even as she was trying to set her life down to words. It was during that time that her husband filed for divorce and she watched him engage another woman.
But for the most part, she was able to retrieve and report their memories together with an unbiased -- perhaps even nostalgic -- touch.
The challenge in writing a book like "We Can Do Together" is for a former headline maker like Celeste to prove herself relevant today, years after she's left the public spotlight.
She manages that with ease and even imparts a few lessons for the careful reader along the way.

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