American Wife Author:Curtis Sittenfeld On what might become one of the most significant days in her husband's presidency, Alice Blackwell considers the strange and unlikely path that has led her to the White House -- and the repercussions of a life lived, as she puts it, "almost in opposition to itself." — A kind, bookish only child born in the 1940s, Alice learned the v... more »irtues of politeness early on from her stolid parents and small Wisconsin hometown. But a tragic accident when she was seventeen shattered her identity and made her understand the fragility of life and the tenuousness of luck. So more than a decade later, when she met boisterous, charismatic Charlie Blackwell, she hardly gave him a second look: She was serious and thoughtful, and he would rather crack a joke than offer a real insight; he was the wealthy son of a bastion family of the Republican party, and she was a school librarian and registered Democrat. Comfortable in her quiet and unassuming life, she felt inured to his charms. And then, much to her surprise, Alice fell for Charlie.
As Alice learns to make her way amid the clannish energy and smug confidence of the Blackwell family, navigating the strange rituals of their country club and summer estate, she remains uneasy with her newfound good fortune. And when Charlie eventually becomes President, Alice is thrust into a position she did not seek--one of power and influence, privilege and responsibility. As Charlie's tumultuous and controversial second term in the White House wears on, Alice must face contradictions years in the making: How can she both love and fundamentally disagree with her husband? How complicit has she been in the trajectory ofher own life? What should she do when her private beliefs run against her public persona?
In Alice Blackwell, author Curtis Sittenfeld has created her most dynamic and complex heroine yet. American Wife is a gorgeously written novel that weaves class, wealth, race, and the exigencies of fate into a brilliant tapestry -- a novel in which the unexpected becomes inevitable, and the pleasures and pain of intimacy and love are laid bare.« less
When I started this book, I had no idea that the premise was roughly based on the life of Laura Bush. Which was probably a good thing, because if I HAD known that, this liberal-leaning reader probably would not have picked this book up.
However, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was hooked right from the beginning, and I was only 75 pages in when I started telling friends about this great book I was reading. The first half of the book was SO good, filled with twists and turns and little bits of foreshadowing.
The main character, Alice Lindgren, is a school librarian with a tragic past. We see her as a young teen before the tragedy occurs, when suddenly an accident happens and her world changes. Skip forward in time to a young adult on her own in the 70s, when she meets her husband, who seems wildly mismatched for Alice.
The story of their courtship and marriage moved quickly, and I was quite engrossed. More foreshadowing, more intimate descriptions of their privileged lives and not-so-perfect marriage. I couldn't stop reading.
But then, all of a sudden, we move forward nearly 20 years, and her husband has been governor and is now president. The story slowed down, became more introspective. I felt robbed. I wanted to know the details of how the couple ended up in the governor's mansion. I wanted to understand Alice's feelings about the road to the presidency. Ultimately, these elements were revealed, as flashbacks, but not as engagingly as the previous two-thirds of the novel.
When it finally dawned on me that this novel was a fictionalized account of George and Laura Bush, things finally started to make sense. But I felt jolted out of a fictionalized world, into an all-too-real world, and I couldn't stop thinking about how much I disliked the people this book is based upon.
If I could, I would give the first part of this novel 5 stars, and the last part closer to 3 stars.
I do recommend this novel. The author is extremely talented, with an extraordinary gift for prose. I look forward to her next novel.
Note: I read the Advance Reader's Edition for this book.
What to say? It felt a little "wrong" to read this masterfully written "fictional" account of the First Lady's life and marriage, but I daresay I have much more respect for her as a woman, wife, mother and citizen than I did before. Some extremely personal scenarios and thinly veiled references to the Bush family and administration make for entertaining reading. Over 500 pages long, but I could not put it down. Loved it.
I absolutely loved this novel. The book is not about politics. Campaigns and elections are glossed over. It really is a story of a marriage and a family. You see Alice Lindgren live with the choices and compromises she had made. Her marriage really required her to choose one world over another and the book is a story of how she lived with those choices. It is a fictionalized account of Laura Bush's life with illusions here and there although I didn't find that very important or specially convincing. What was captivating was the story of a couple who made each other happier than anyone else had ever mad them, but seemed wrong for each other in temperament and beliefs. I've always wondered how people make those relationships work and this is one authors version of how it could happen. There is an abortion subplot and Alice Lindgren is very clearly, and strongly prochoice.
In American Wife: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld, the heroine is Alice Blackwell, a mother, former librarian, and well-liked First Lady. She is married to Charlie Blackwell, a member of a wealthy, politically connected family. He is a born-again Christian, a teetotaler, and the controversial current president. Sound familiar?
I really enjoyed this book. As a character study, it probably raised more questions than it answered; and there's also a chance that readers will become too obsessed with drawing parallels and wondering where the line between fact and fiction has been drawn.
Even with its flaws, this is a great read and I would definitely recommend it.
I loved the beginning of this book, the story slowed when it moved to current time. I wanted to learn more about the time leading up until then. Well written and moved fast. I have to say I found it interesting and it sparked me to do some checking on Laura Bush to see to what extent this paralleled her real life. I was amazed at what I found. Highly recommend no matter what you view is on the Bush family.
A huge snooze.
I waited so long to read this book and expected something interesting. The author drones on and on and on about the tiniest details. I made it to p. 188 and probably wouldn't have gotten that far if I hadn't been sitting part of the time in the dentist's office.
Feel guilty for passing this on to another member, but others might like what I most assuredly did not.
Please note, I do not give two stars to the narrator. The narrator did a wonderful job, it was the book itself I didn't like.
Sittenfeld uses Laura Bush as the inspiration for the narrator of American Wife. The difficulty is, I don't know what's fact and what's not. If I wanted to read a memoir by Laura Bush or a biography about Laura Bush, that's what I would have picked up.
Throughout the novel I kept thinking to myself, "What's Sittenfeld's political objective with this?" There were times when I thought she was trying to use the main character, Alice, to justify Bush's character, and then others where even Alice doesn't understand why Bush's character does things. I just don't know.
The main character has a controversial medical procedure which I feel was too much of the book. I found myself thinking, just get to the end all ready.
If this book didn't use Laura and George Bush as inspiration, I think it could have been a pretty darn decent novel about a woman learning about herself while struggling with the realities of marriage. However, I couldn't tell fact from fiction and it frustrated the buggers out of me