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Yvonne Abraham

Martha Coakley takes the Proust Questionnaire

Who are these candidates for governor, really? To get beyond the spin of this campaign’s waning weeks, I asked the men and woman who would lead the state to submit to the Proust Questionnaire. So-named because French writer Marcel Proust was partial to it, the quiz is a fixture in Vanity Fair magazine, from which I adapted this version.

Today, it’s Democrat Martha Coakley’s turn to tell us about the person within.

MORE SURVEYS: Charlie Baker | Evan Falchuk| Jeff McCormick

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Thanksgiving dinner that I have cooked, with all my relatives.

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What is your greatest fear?

Letting a victim down during a case I was handling as chief of the Child Abuse Unit in the Middlesex district attorney’s office.

What is the trait you most dislike in yourself?

Lack of patience.

What is the trait you most dislike in others?

Intolerance.

Which living person do you most admire?

Magi Bish. She turned a terrible tragedy into an opportunity to help others.

Which living person do you most despise?

I don’t think about the world that way.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Shoes.

What is your current state of mind?

Optimistic and energized for the final three weeks on the campaign trail.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Patience.

On what occasion do you lie?

When someone has a bad haircut and you don’t want to hurt his or her feelings.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“My Republican opponent Charlie Baker . . . ”

When and where were you happiest?

Thanksgiving dinner that I cooked, with my family around.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My husband, Tom O’Connor.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I would love to be able to paint.

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If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I wish I needed less sleep.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Defeating DOMA, and taking on Wall Street to keep people in their homes.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what would it be?

A Broadway singer.

What is your most treasured possession?

My mother’s diamond ring.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

My brother’s suicide.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Remembering my roots and never forgetting who I am fighting for.

What do you most value in your friends?

Loyalty.

Who is your hero of fiction?

My heroine is Nancy Drew.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Leila Robinson, the first woman to pass the bar exam in Massachusetts. I was humbled to receive the Women’s Bar Association award in her honor.

Who are your heroes in real life?

I meet people everyday on the campaign trail who show enormous courage in the face of adversity: Our veterans, and families who have lost a loved one; those who have survived abuse, violence, and addiction and have triumphed; people who are struggling on minimum wage to make a better life for themselves and their families.

Who are your favorite writers?

Carolyn Keene, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Agatha Christie, Roger Angell. and columnist Eileen McNamara.

What is your greatest regret?

I wish my parents had been alive and able to attend my wedding.

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How would you like to die?

Surrounded by people I love.

What is your motto?

My mother always said, “Life is too short not to enjoy it.” That’s why I’ve always done work that I’ve loved and cared about.


Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at abraham@globe.com Follow her on Twitter @GlobeAbraham.