DALLAS - Former first lady Laura Bush says in her new book that she lost her faith for many years after her pleas to God to spare the life of a high school classmate whose car she hit were not answered.

Bush talks in detail for the first time publicly of the accident she was involved in as a 17-year-old in Midland, Texas, that killed her friend Mike Douglas. She says she and a girlfriend were on their way to a drive-in theater on Nov. 6, 1963, when she ran a stop sign and hit Douglas' car.

The memoir, "Spoken from the Heart," is set for release next week. A copy of the 456-page book was obtained by The Associated Press.

Bush says that in the emergency room after the accident, she could hear Douglas' mother sobbing on the other side of a curtain. Guilt over the accident consumed her for years, and she regretted not visiting Douglas' parents following the accident.

Bush says that when she became a mother, she began to fully understand what his parents had gone through. She says that after a high school classmate of her twin daughters' committed suicide, she insisted that they visit the friend's parents.

One of the persistent questions about Laura Bush has been whether she is more liberal than her husband. In the book, she refers to this line of inquiry as "an odd sort of Washington parlor game" that wearies her.

On gay marriage, she writes that before the beginning of the 2004 presidential campaign, "I had talked to George about not making gay marriage a significant issue. We have, I reminded him, a number of close friends who are gay or whose children are gay. But at that moment I could never have imagined what path this issue would take and where it would lead."

The memoir, which was written with Lyric Winik, who is married to historian Jay Winik, includes a look at some pointed choices by Bush and some unflinching honesty.

Her guilt for flying through a stop sign at the wheel of her father's car and killing one of her close high school friends persists, she writes of the car crash when she was 17. "And the guilt isn't simply from Mike dying . . . . There are the hard, inner circles wrapping around Mike's parents and Mike's sister, whose lives were changed and ruined." There is guilt for having never paid a call to the parents.

She "lost her faith that November, lost it for many, many years," she writes, and she doesn't refer to getting it back.

With The Washington Post

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