Customer Reviews for

American Wife

Average Rating 3.5
( 236 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(64)

4 Star

(78)

3 Star

(46)

2 Star

(19)

1 Star

(29)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

Torn about this one...

While I gave the book 4 stars, I am still perplexed in how I should feel about it. If it were just a story, completely made up, not about a recent First Lady, I would say that I really enjoyed the book. But because I know this book is loosely based on the life of Laura ...
While I gave the book 4 stars, I am still perplexed in how I should feel about it. If it were just a story, completely made up, not about a recent First Lady, I would say that I really enjoyed the book. But because I know this book is loosely based on the life of Laura Bush, I felt like I was trespassing into her life, without actually really knowing the facts. This is not "historical fiction" in the same way a retelling of the life of say, Anne Boleyn is, where Anne is still the main character. Alice is not Laura, and yet she is. I almost feel like I should now go read something about Laura Bush to separate the fact from fiction. I don't want the decisions or actions that Alice took in the book to reflect how my opinion on Laura Bush is formed, as I don't know really what is true and what is not. I know the big things, but when it comes to the intimate details, how can I judge? I think this is a tricky thing to write. I don't think this book is not worth reading, I think it is, I am just wary about how this reflects on the former First Lady and I am hoping that peoples opinions of her are not characterized by this book. Even though it IS fiction, that does not mean it is not powerful in what it is portraying. A good read still.

posted by blue2280 on June 18, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

9 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

Cheap Shot!

After reading less than 100 pages of this so-called work of fiction I have no desire to finish it. What a cheap shot this author takes at Laura Bush. I find the book disrespectful and uncalled for. The author has taken the liberty of adding a disclaimer at the beginning...
After reading less than 100 pages of this so-called work of fiction I have no desire to finish it. What a cheap shot this author takes at Laura Bush. I find the book disrespectful and uncalled for. The author has taken the liberty of adding a disclaimer at the beginning of the book as if the disclaimer makes this insulting and disgustingly sexually explicit book acceptable... not in my book. If you want to write fiction, then write fiction, but to add such a trashy element to a story that so closely mirrors the life of a former first lady is unacceptable.

posted by 1595797 on July 14, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2009

    Cheap Shot!

    After reading less than 100 pages of this so-called work of fiction I have no desire to finish it. What a cheap shot this author takes at Laura Bush. I find the book disrespectful and uncalled for. The author has taken the liberty of adding a disclaimer at the beginning of the book as if the disclaimer makes this insulting and disgustingly sexually explicit book acceptable... not in my book. If you want to write fiction, then write fiction, but to add such a trashy element to a story that so closely mirrors the life of a former first lady is unacceptable.

    9 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Torn about this one...

    While I gave the book 4 stars, I am still perplexed in how I should feel about it. If it were just a story, completely made up, not about a recent First Lady, I would say that I really enjoyed the book. But because I know this book is loosely based on the life of Laura Bush, I felt like I was trespassing into her life, without actually really knowing the facts. This is not "historical fiction" in the same way a retelling of the life of say, Anne Boleyn is, where Anne is still the main character. Alice is not Laura, and yet she is. I almost feel like I should now go read something about Laura Bush to separate the fact from fiction. I don't want the decisions or actions that Alice took in the book to reflect how my opinion on Laura Bush is formed, as I don't know really what is true and what is not. I know the big things, but when it comes to the intimate details, how can I judge? I think this is a tricky thing to write. I don't think this book is not worth reading, I think it is, I am just wary about how this reflects on the former First Lady and I am hoping that peoples opinions of her are not characterized by this book. Even though it IS fiction, that does not mean it is not powerful in what it is portraying. A good read still.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Don't waste your money!

    I was duped when I bought this book. It's neither fact nor fiction. It is a left wing view of the G.W. Bush family. If you are a Bush basher, by all means buy it. It portrays the former President as a drunk and inept husband and political person. His wife is supposedly the only intellectual part of the marriage. It is not a keeper for my permanent library.

    7 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Not what I expected.

    This one started out as an entertaining read fairly quickly for me but has kind of fizzled and I'm only around page 160. At this point I really have no desire to read further and I can't figure out why. It could be that I'm somewhat aware of how the story will continue (no mystery), or that it's starting to show a modicum of dullness, or that I'm finding it a little bit disrespectful. At any rate, I'm going to abandon it. I'm not willing to take this ride for 500+ pages.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    American Wife is a Must Read

    American Wife is a story of the other side; the woman behind the man, living a life into which she was not elected.

    Curtis Sittenfeld develops a simple character: a young, single woman (Alice) with a great family and friends, but who has a hidden secret (don't we all). Through a fairy-tale, whirlwind romance, she marries her seeming soul mate, a man with a prominent family history, yet he is always searching for ways to make his name.

    Comfortable in her own skin, Alice is unsure of the new life into which she's entered. But she emerges strong. A great book club read!

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2008

    Better Than Expected!

    I was hesitant to read American Wife, as I really had not liked Prep, by the same author. But, after an invitation to a book group with this as the selection, I decided to try it. I am glad I did. It is virtually impossible to separate this fictional story from the Bush administration, as recommended by some reviewers, but either way - the writing is terrific and the journey on which you are taken is great. The weakest section comes towards the end with The White House Years, but until then, it is a real page turner with your wanting to follow the story of this young, smart woman and her improbable rise from small town girl to First Lady.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    First Lady, First Rate.

    Let me preface my review by saying that I am heavily liberal and am not a fan of the Bush family whatsoever. With that said, I was intrigued by the plot for "American Wife" by Curtis Sittenfeld, not because it was based loosely on the life of Laura Bush, but because it makes for an intriguing story. I was more fearful of the size of the book than its content. I've never been a big fan of 500+ page books, mostly because they look too intimidating and I feel that I'll never finish them (especially if they lag). "American Wife," however, was one of the best books I've read in a long time. It held my interest throughout and, many times, I did not want to put it down. Sittenfeld writes conversationally. She doesn't dumb down the story for the reader, but she also doesn't try to make it more than it is by using Triple Word Score words. A quarter of the way through the book, I already I felt like I really knew the characters, main and supporting. The main character, Alice, was thoroughly fleshed out page after page. We really got to know, understand, and like her. And we could even forgive her for marrying a strong conservative because it was easy to see why she fell for him and his fun-loving nature despite her beliefs and political leanings, as well as her passion for students, books, and her budding career as a librarian. She never lets go of her beliefs; she maintains them even though her life changes dramatically from her small town beginnings. When questioned about her liberal leanings, she responds, "I'm not a Democrat because I haven't thought about the issues. I'm a Democrat because I have." Zing! Sittenfeld did a thorough and thought-provoking job of not only the relationship between Alice and Charlie (the man who would one day be president), but also the events that led her to that point in her life. I honestly could have read more and more about the character of Alice before and after she met Charlie. That's how interesting and well-written she was. The first three-fourths of the fictional novel focused on Alice as a child, growing up, being a teenager, being a young adult, and finally meeting and marrying Charlie. The novel was well-paced and maintained a smooth transition from event to event throughout Alice's life. The chapters of her life slowly unfolded before us so we, the reader, got to live in the moment with Alice. When Sittenfeld chose to jump to Alice's time as a presidential wife in the last quarter of the book, that's when the story felt rushed and I felt a bit cheated. There was too big of a leap from the beginnings of their marriage to the presidency. There was all that time in Alice's life that was skipped; at least twenty years or so. I know Sittenfeld probably didn't want to drag Alice's story on too long and needed to focus on the presidency part of Alice's life, but her story really could have been a series instead of a single book. Other than the time leap, there was only one other flaw of the novel, in my opinion: Sittenfeld's assumption that we know the outcome of Alice's story. I didn't feel that Sittenfeld should assume that we know anything about Charlie and Alice because they're fictional characters, not real people. Despite these two minor flaws, "American Wife" was one of my Top 5 books that I read in 2010. And, to Curtis Sittenfeld: I could have kept reading about Alice's tales! Thanks for evolving such a great character.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 17, 2010

    Laura and George W. tranported to Wisconsin

    Although Ms. Sittenfeld is obviously a very accomplished author (I thoroughly enjoyed "Prep"), she fell short in this novel for three material reasons. First, by basing her book on the lives (albeit fictional) of Laura and George W. Bush, she essentially removed most of the potential drama--we already knew what happened. Second, by choosing to tell the story in the first person, we were forced to view the unfolding events from a single perspective, a dangerous device unless the narrator is compelling throughout, which Alice certainly was not. Third, the book was far too long. There were dozens of paragraphs that could have been omitted without naving any negative effect whatsoever on the characterizations or the story.

    Lydia Dishman, in her Barnes & Noble review, advises us to "put Laura Bush firmly out of your mind." She says that the author insisted that Alice Blackman was "most certainly not Laura Bush." Well, no, she wasn't exactly. But if she and Ms. Dishman really believe that readers are going disregard the widely reported activities of the the last president and his wife, they also believe in the tooth fairy.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Fairly predictable and disappointing

    I like the concept of the book and was fascinated by the author's story of how she came to write it as well. Often these background stories are every bit as compelling as the books themselves.
    I am afraid in this case it was more compelling than the actual story itself.
    I found it a bit confusing to follow at times and I enjoy the genre of going back and forth between different time periods or points of view, but this seemed disjointed and with no rhyme or reason at times as to the connections between some of this "back and forth".
    I also felt it was way too similar to the Bushes and that was actually distracting and didn't allow me to engage in the main character's story very well. All I kept visualizing was Laura Bush instead of the actual character. Therefore, I felt it was weak on character development and I could not empathize, sympathize, or relate to the characters in the story very much at all.
    There was so much background as far as her teen years and her young adult years and then I felt it sort of fell apart as far as details or engaging the reader once she actually was the first lady.
    I do appreciate her handling for the most part of the politics as I know the author is fairly liberal leaning and she handled that is a fairly objective way.
    Too long for the content and it didn't hold my attention, weak character development, and I found myself doing the "Is this a book I want to committ to" most of the way through it!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2009

    Cheap Trash

    I read about 80 pages of this book and it was cheap trash. The book showed no respect for the main character, former First Lady. What did I expect from a Liberal writer!

    2 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2009

    A Page Turner!

    "American Wife" is a sympathetic and fascinating examination of Laura Welch Bush's life. Yes, it IS a novel, not a biography, but it appears Sittenfeld researched Laura's life well. There are enough facts to make it believable without feeling like the writer is taking artistic license and completely misrepresenting this woman.

    Being from Texas and around the same age, I've always been curious about Laura Welch Bush. I knew she was a socially left-leaning Democrat early on, a well-read, intelligent woman, a librarian who loved children. For me, the woman she became as First Lady never reconciled with her younger self. There was always something askew and disturbing seeing her staring blankly and lovingly up at her husband. I always felt there was another woman inside who was silently screaming.

    For me, the book explained a lot. Sittenfeld obviously feels respect and affection for LB. Her characterization of George W Bush, his parents, siblings and those around him (Karl Rove, Cheney, et al.) are not especially kind but are believable and seem realistic. This is not a slanderous book, however, it would be interesting to hear what Laura Bush or her daughters think of "American Wife", if they read it (and how could they not?).

    My only quibble with the writing is that Sittenfeld meanders off subject too much. She is prone to asides that take you away from the present scene and by the time she gets back to the original story, you are scratching your head thinking, what was the point of that? Her tendency for asides got tiresome toward the end and made the book slightly too long. The book could have used a good final edit, thereby improving this sharply written, face-paced, fascinating read. Would be a great book club book!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2009

    Don't bother.

    I could not bring myself to finish this book. The characters were entirely unappealing and the plot line was unimaginative. I was bored.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2009

    American Wife

    I listened to the audiobook AMERICAN WIFE and found the book to be captivating. I listen to many audiobooks while working. I have "read" so many wonderful books and the books that move me the most I will purchase to read using my eyes! This book is one of the many books I will purchase & include in my library.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great read!

    This book served as a tasteful read tackling the issues of what it is like to be an American Wife and the choices she makes in regards to her husband's. It is a book every woman should read in regards to how much the average woman sacrifices for marriage.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2010

    Very Disappointing

    I had no idea this book was based on Laura Bush when I bought it, but it didn't take long to figure that out. Unless you are a diehard Bush fan, this book is totally unappealing and tedious. The characters are unbelievable, the educated, quiet Alice falls for a man who is a functioning alcoholic, and obviously not very bright. She tolerates his foul-mouth (even around their young daughter) and supports his every move, even though she doesn't have the same beliefs as him. Please. The sexual language is really unpleasant and unnecessary (especially after you have a picture of Laura and George Bush in your mind!). How this book became a bestseller on anyone's list, is a shock.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting and good read.

    I did not realize when I purchased this book that it was loosly based on the life of Barbara Bush. I'm not sure I would have purchased it if I had known that fact. However, I am glad that I did read the book because I found that the book kept my attention and was worth reading. I enjoyed it. I found some parts more interesting than others, but all in all I would recommend this book to anyone interested in Barbara Bush or not. As noted, it is only loosly based on her, and for the most part is pure fiction. It is interesting how the author combined the fiction with the fact.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Disappointed - This novel is a lemon!

    I have read, and enjoyed, Curtis Sittenfeld's previous novels, "Man of my Dreams" and "Prep." I was very disappointed with this novel. The begining was fun; I enjoyed the "coming of age" portion the main character experiences. I am now stuck in the middle of the novel and don't see myself finishing. I find Charlie to be very annoying, and Alice's child to be spoiled; these two characters are a turnoff. I feel like the novel drags a bit also. I hope "American Wife" was a fluke because I really enjoyed Sittenfeld's previous novels.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Easy read & thought-provoking

    Originally, I thought "Why in the world would I want to read a fictionalized account of Laura Bush and husband?" but then it was recommended to me so I gave it a try. While there were certainly familiar biographical landmarks (car accident, short career as a school librarian, elite summer compound, mother-in-law from hell, etc.), I found that the book raised more philosophical questions for me. Such as: Is a good sex life important enough to sacrifice one's values and beliefs? Is love? How did such an idiot actually become President of the United States?
    And: What would it be like to have a child who adopts values that are an anathema to you by virtue of emulating her father? What would it be like to be the man who sexually abased the future First Lady? The book is not a classic but it made for an interesting read.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2009

    Loved it!

    Amazing fictionalization of a real person. Absolutely fascinating.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2009

    Could not finish.

    I found it impossible not to compare the main character to Laura Bush and was so offended by the liberty taken with her life that I could not finish the book. I got half way through and could not stomach anymore. I am a supporter of the Bush family and greatly admire Mrs Bush. This seemed like a trashy way to cash in on her life without her consent by changing a few facts. A writer is certainly allowed poetic license but I think this book went way over the line of common decency and respect.

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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