American Wifeby Curtis Sittenfeld
A kind, bookish only child born in the 1940s, Alice Lindgren has no idea that she will one day end up in the White House, married to the president. In her small Wisconsin hometown, she learns the virtues of politeness, but a tragic accident when she is seventeen shatters her identity and changes the trajectory of her life. More than a decade later, when the
A kind, bookish only child born in the 1940s, Alice Lindgren has no idea that she will one day end up in the White House, married to the president. In her small Wisconsin hometown, she learns the virtues of politeness, but a tragic accident when she is seventeen shatters her identity and changes the trajectory of her life. More than a decade later, when the charismatic son of a powerful Republican family sweeps her off her feet, she is surprised to find herself admitted into a world of privilege. And when her husband unexpectedly becomes governor and then president, she discovers that she is married to a man she both loves and fundamentally disagrees with–and that her private beliefs increasingly run against her public persona. As her husband’s presidency enters its second term, Alice must confront contradictions years in the making and face questions nearly impossible to answer.
The New York Times
The Washington Post
Sittenfeld tracks, in her uneven third novel, the life of bookish, naïve Alice Lindgren and the trajectory that lands her in the White House as first lady. Charlie Blackwell, her boyishly charming rake of a husband, whose background of Ivy League privilege, penchant for booze and partying, contempt for the news and habit of making flubs when speaking off the cuff, bears more than a passing resemblance to the current president (though the Blackwells hail from Wisconsin, not Texas). Sittenfeld shines early in her portrayal of Alice's coming-of-age in Riley, Wis., living with her parents and her mildly eccentric grandmother. A car accident in her teens results in the death of her first crush, which haunts Alice even as she later falls for Charlie and becomes overwhelmed by his family's private summer compound and exclusive country club membership. Once the author leaves the realm of pure fiction, however, and has the first couple deal with his being ostracized as a president who favors an increasingly unpopular war, the book quickly loses its panache and sputters to a weak conclusion that doesn't live up to the fine storytelling that precedes it. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
–Maureen Dowd, The New York Times
“Brilliant…[A] triumph…Curtis Sittenfeld has provided a plausible secret history of an American embarrassment – and a grand entertainment.”
–Joe Klein, Time Magazine
“A smart and sophisticated portrait of a high-profile political wife…Sittenfeld has an astonishing gift for creating characters that take up residence in readers’ heads.”
–Connie Schultz,Washington Post Book World
“Sittenfeld boldly imagines the inner life of a first lady…an intimate and daring story…American Wife is a vicarious experience, an up-close portrait of the interior life of a very complicated woman…cinematic.”
“The novel, Sittenfeld’s most fully realized yet, artfully evokes the painful reverberations of the past.”
“Compelling...enormously sympathetic...Sittenfeld’s remarkable gifts as a storyteller draw you back into the fictional world of Alice Blackwell. She writes in the sharp, realistic tradition of Philip Roth and Richard Ford–clear, unpretentious prose; metaphors so spot-on you barely notice them. Sittenfeld may have lifted the set pieces from a real woman’s life, but in the process she has created a wise and insightful character who is entirely her own.”
–Time Out New York
“Ambitious…Sittenfeld installs herself deep within the psyche of the tight-lipped wife of the president and emerges with an evenhanded, compassionate look at her mind and heart…powerfully intimate. Grade: A”
“A masterful highbrow-lowbrow mash-up that satisfies as ass-kicking literary fiction and juicy gossip simultaneously.”
“With American Wife, Curtis Sittenfeld has deftly crossed an extraordinarily high wire…I read American Wife in just two or three delicious sittings, struck by the granular clarity of the author’s descriptions and the down-to-earth believability of the story, bewitched by the charming, frustrating woman at the center of it: Laura Bush.”
— Ana Marie Cox, The New York Observer
“Curtis Sittenfeld is one of our best contemporary chroniclers of class and caste… Sittenfeld imagines this couple so deliciously and so plausibly… Curtis Sittenfeld invents a deep, messy, sympathetic life for a public person whose surface is all we'll ever know.”
— St Petersburg Times
“Immensely readable. It's a nuanced portrait of a woman in a singularly fascinating position.”
— Cleveland Plain Dealer
“A broad, deep and utterly convincing account…a portrait of a woman and a marriage that also brings the reader as close to the probable essence of the outgoing president as any other novelist, or any biographer, is likely to get.”
— Portland Oregonian
“We love Sittenfeld. We love her wry, razor-sharp observations. We love her funny, straightforward honesty…[American Wife] is an empathetic, fascinating, and gorgeously written story about a 30-year marriage. We devoured it in one night.”
— Boston Magazine
“Endearing and poignant, humorous and enlightening, American Wife is a must-read for Sittenfeld fansand a good first read for would-be converts.”
— Fredericksburg Freelance Star
“An entertaining, racy tale that's inspired more than a bit by the life of our current president's wife, Laura Bush…A well-told tale that will leave many readers wondering: How much of Sittenfeld's story might be closer to fact than fiction?”
— St Louis Post Dispatch
“The scope and detail of American Wife are reminiscent of Richard Russo. Like Russo, she creates characters from the ground up, ancestry, neighborhood, culture and all.”
“American Wife promises to be another sensation.”
- Dayton Daily News
“American Wife is a sparkling, sprawling novel…A ridiculously gifted writer…Sittenfeld has harnessed her talents perfectly in American Wife, producing an exhilirating epic infused with humor, pain, and hope.”
“Widely anticipated and vastly entertaining… An intelligent, well-crafted, psychologically astute novel”
–New York Sun
“Highly engaging…fascinating depth.”
— Seattle Times
“A well-researched, juicy roman a clef about the current first lady.”
— Boston Globe
“Ambitious…entertaining…a parable of America in the years of the second Bush presidency.”
–Joyce Carol Oates, cover of The New York Times Book Review
“With her first line - “Have I made terrible mistakes?” - Alice Blackwell (a fictional First Lady modeled after Laura Bush) reels us into a gripping epic of public and private lives. A gem.”
“This searing page-turner will make you wonder what unspoken promises lie behind the victory smiles of any power couple.”
“What is Laura Bush thinking? That’s the question Sittenfeld ponders in her novel,
loosely based on the life of our First Lady…Just as she did in Prep, Sittenfeld masterfully deflates the middle-class fairy tale — rose gardens and all.”
“Bold…conveys in convincing, thoroughly riveting detail a life far more complicated than it appears on the surface…What she does here, in prose as winning as it is confident, is to craft out of the first-person narration a compelling, very human voice, one full of kindness and decency. And, as if making the Bush-like couple entirely sympathetic is not enough of a feat in itself, she also provides many rich insights into the emotional ebb and flow of a long-term marriage.”
–Booklist, Upfront and Starred review
“Terrific . . . an intelligent, bighearted novel about a controversial political dynasty.”
“Remarkable . . . American Wife is about the long history of a marriage, and . . . the way we make decisions when we’re young that have consequences we couldn’t have anticipated. . . . Sittenfeld’s most ambitious and impressive work to date.”
- Random House Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.60(d)
Read an Excerpt
1272 Amity Lane
In 1954, the summer before I entered third grade, my grandmother mistook Andrew Imhof for a girl. I’d accompanied my grandmother to the grocery store—that morning, while reading a novel that mentioned hearts of palm, she’d been seized by a desire to have some herself and had taken me along on the walk to town—and it was in the canned-goods section that we encountered Andrew, who was with his mother. Not being of the same generation, Andrew’s mother and my grandmother weren’t friends, but they knew each other the way people in Riley, Wisconsin, did. Andrew’s mother was the one who approached us, setting her hand against her chest and saying to my grandmother, “Mrs. Lindgren, it’s Florence Imhof. How are you?”
Andrew and I had been classmates for as long as we’d been going to school, but we merely eyed each other without speaking. We both were eight. As the adults chatted, he picked up a can of peas and held it by securing it between his flat palm and his chin, and I wondered if he was showing off.
This was when my grandmother shoved me a little. “Alice, say hello to Mrs. Imhof.” As I’d been taught, I extended my hand. “And isn’t your daughter darling,” my grandmother continued, gesturing toward Andrew, “but I don’t believe I know her name.”
A silence ensued during which I’m pretty sure Mrs. Imhof was deciding how to correct my grandmother. At last, touching her son’s shoulder, Mrs. Imhof said, “This is Andrew. He and Alice are in the same class over at the school.”
My grandmother squinted. “Andrew, did you say?” She even turned her head, angling her ear as if she were hard of hearing, though I knew she wasn’t. She seemed to willfully refuse the pardon Mrs. Imhof had offered, and I wanted to tap my grandmother’s arm, to tug her over so her face was next to mine and say, “Granny, he’s a boy!” It had never occurred to me that Andrew looked like a girl—little about Andrew Imhof had occurred to me at that time in my life—but it was true that he had unusually long eyelashes framing hazel eyes, as well as light brown hair that had gotten a bit shaggy over the summer. However, his hair was long only for that time and for a boy; it was still far shorter than mine, and there was nothing feminine about the chinos or red-and-white-checked shirt he wore.
“Andrew is the younger of our two sons,” Mrs. Imhof said, and her voice contained a new briskness, the first hint of irritation. “His older brother is Pete.”
“Is that right?” My grandmother finally appeared to grasp the situation, but grasping it did not seem to have made her repentant. She leaned forward and nodded at Andrew—he still was holding the peas—and said, “It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance. You be sure my granddaughter behaves herself at school. You can report back to me if she doesn’t.”
Andrew had said nothing thus far—it was not clear he’d been paying enough attention to the conversation to understand that his gender was in dispute—but at this he beamed: a closed-mouth but enormous smile, one that I felt implied, erroneously, that I was some sort of mischief-maker and he would indeed be keeping his eye on me. My grandmother, who harbored a lifelong admiration for mischief, smiled back at him like a conspirator. After she and Mrs. Imhof said goodbye to each other (our search for hearts of palm had, to my grandmother’s disappointment if not her surprise, proved unsuccessful), we turned in the opposite direction from them. I took my grandmother’s hand and whispered to her in what I hoped was a chastening tone, “Granny.”
Not in a whisper at all, my grandmother said, “You don’t think that child looks like a girl? He’s downright pretty!”
“Well, it’s not his fault, but I can’t believe I’m the first one to make that mistake. His eyelashes are an inch long.”
As if to verify her claim, we both turned around. By then we were thirty feet from the Imhofs, and Mrs. Imhof had her back to us, leaning toward a shelf. But Andrew was facing my grandmother and me. He still was smiling slightly, and when my eyes met his, he lifted his eyebrows twice.
“He’s flirting with you!” my grandmother exclaimed.
“What does ‘flirting’ mean?”
She laughed. “It’s when a person likes you, so they try to catch your attention.”
Andrew Imhof liked me? Surely, if the information had been delivered by an adult—and not just any adult but my wily grandmother—it had to be true. Andrew liking me seemed neither thrilling nor appalling; mostly, it just seemed unexpected. And then, having considered the idea, I dismissed it. My grandmother knew about some things, but not the social lives of eight-year-olds. After all, she hadn’t even recognized Andrew as a boy.
In the house I grew up in, we were four: my grandmother, my parents, and me. On my father’s side, I was a third-generation only child, which was greatly unusual in those days. While I certainly would have liked a sibling, I knew from an early age not to mention it—my mother had miscarried twice by the time I was in first grade, and those were just the pregnancies I knew about, the latter occurring when she was five months along. Though the miscarriages weighted my parents with a quiet sadness, our family as it was seemed evenly balanced. At dinner, we each sat on one side of the rectangular table in the dining room; heading up the sidewalk to church, we could walk in pairs; in the summer, we could split a box of Yummi-Freez ice-cream bars; and we could play euchre or bridge, both of which they taught me when I was ten and which we often enjoyed on Friday and Saturday nights.
Although my grandmother possessed a rowdy streak, my parents were exceedingly considerate and deferential to each other, and for years I believed this mode to be the norm among families and saw all other dynamics as an aberration. My best friend from early girlhood was Dena Janaszewski, who lived across the street, and I was constantly shocked by what I perceived to be Dena’s, and really all the Janaszewskis’, crudeness and volume: They hollered to one another from between floors and out windows; they ate off one another’s plates at will, and Dena and her two younger sisters constantly grabbed and poked at one another’s braids and bottoms; they entered the bathroom when it was occupied; and more shocking than the fact that her father once said goddamn in my presence—his exact words, entering the kitchen, were “Who took my goddamn hedge clippers?”—was the fact that neither Dena, her mother, nor her sisters seemed to even notice.
In my own family, life was calm. My mother and father occasionally disagreed—a few times a year he would set his mouth in a firm straight line, or the corners of her eyes would draw down with a kind of wounded disappointment—but it happened infrequently, and when it did, it seemed unnecessary to express aloud. Merely sensing discord, whether in the role of inflictor or recipient, pained them enough.
My father had two mottoes, the first of which was “Fools’ names and fools’ faces often appear in public places.” The second was “Whatever you are, be a good one.” I never knew the source of the first motto, but the second came from Abraham Lincoln. By profession, my father worked as the branch manager of a bank, but his great passion—his hobby, I suppose you’d say, which seems to be a thing not many people have anymore unless you count searching the Internet or talking on cell phones—was bridges. He especially admired the majesty of the Golden Gate Bridge and once told me that during its construction, the contractor had arranged, at great expense, for an enormous safety net to run beneath it. “That’s called employer responsibility,” my father said. “He wasn’t just worried about profit.” My father closely followed the building of both the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan—he called it the Mighty Mac—and later, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which, upon completion in 1964, would connect Brooklyn and Staten Island and be the largest suspension bridge in the world.
My parents both had grown up in Milwaukee and met in 1943, when my mother was eighteen and working in a glove factory, and my father was twenty and working at a branch of Wisconsin State Bank & Trust. They struck up a conversation in a soda shop, and were engaged by the time my father enlisted in the army. After the war ended, they married and moved forty-five miles west to Riley, my father’s mother in tow, so he could open a branch of the bank there. My mother never again held a job. As a housewife, she had a light touch—she did not seem overburdened or cranky, she didn’t remind the rest of us how much she did—and yet she sewed many of her own and my clothes, kept the house meticulous, and always prepared our meals. The food we ate was acceptable more often than delicious; she favored pan-broiled steak, or noodle and cheese loafs, and she taught me her recipes in a low-key, literal way, never explaining why I needed to know them. Why wouldn’t I need to know them? She was endlessly patient and a purveyor of small, sweet gestures: Without commenting, she’d leave pretty ribbons or peppermint candies on my bed or, on my bureau, a single flower in a three-inch vase.
My mother was the second youngest of eight siblings, none of whom we saw frequently. She had five brothers and two sisters, and only one of her sisters, my Aunt Marie, who was married to a mechanic and had six children, had ever come to Riley. When my mother’s parents were still alive, we’d drive to visit them in Milwaukee, but they died within ten days of each other when I was six, and after that we’d go years without seeing my aunts, uncles, and cousins. My impression was that their houses all were small and crowded, filled with the squabbling of children and the smell of sour milk, and the men were terse and the women were harried; in a way that was not cruel, none of them appeared to be particularly interested in us. We visited less and less the older I got, and my father’s mother never went along, although she’d ask us to pick up schnecken from her favorite German bakery. In my childhood, there was a relieved feeling that came over me when we drove away from one of my aunt’s or uncle’s houses, a feeling I tried to suppress because I knew even then that it was unchristian. Without anyone in my immediate family saying so, I came to understand that my mother had chosen us; she had chosen our life together over one like her siblings’, and the fact that she’d been able to choose made her lucky.
Like my mother, my grandmother did not hold a job after the move to Riley, but she didn’t really join in the upkeep of the house, either. In retrospect, I’m surprised that her unhelpfulness did not elicit resentment from my mother, but it truly seems that it didn’t. I think my mother found her mother-in-law entertaining, and in a person who entertains us, there is much we forgive. Most afternoons, when I returned home from school, the two of them were in the kitchen, my mother paused between chores with an apron on or a dust rag over her shoulder, listening intently as my grandmother recounted a magazine article she’d just finished about, say, the mysterious murder of a mobster’s girlfriend in Chicago.
My grandmother never vacuumed or swept, and only rarely, if my parents weren’t home or my mother was sick, would she cook, preparing dishes notable mostly for their lack of nutrition: An entire dinner could consist of fried cheese or half-raw pancakes. What my grandmother did do was read; this was the primary way she spent her time. It wasn’t unusual for her to complete a book a day—she preferred novels, especially the Russian masters, but she also read histories, biographies, and pulpy mysteries—and for hours and hours every morning and afternoon, she sat either in the living room or on top of her bed (the bed would be made, and she would be fully dressed), turning pages and smoking Pall Malls. From early on, I understood that the household view of my grandmother, which is to say my parents’ view, was not simply that she was both smart and frivolous but that her smartness and her frivolity were intertwined. That she could tell you all about the curse of the Hope Diamond, or about cannibalism in the Donner Party—it wasn’t that she ought to be ashamed, exactly, to possess such knowledge, but there was no reason for her to be proud of it, either. The tidbits she relayed were interesting, but they had little to do with real life: paying a mortgage, scrubbing a pan, keeping warm in the biting cold of Wisconsin winters.
I’m pretty sure that rather than resisting this less than flattering view of herself, my grandmother shared it. In another era, I imagine she’d have made an excellent book critic for a newspaper, or even an English professor, but she’d never attended college, and neither had my parents. My grandmother’s husband, my father’s father, had died early, and as a young widow, my grandmother had gone to work in a ladies’ dress shop, waiting on Milwaukee matrons who, as she told it, had money but not taste. She’d held this job until the age of fifty—fifty was older then than it is now—at which point she’d moved to Riley with my newlywed parents.
My grandmother borrowed the majority of the books she read from the library, but she bought some, too, and these she kept in her bedroom on a shelf so full that every ledge contained two rows; it reminded me of a girl in my class, Pauline Geisseler, whose adult teeth had grown in before her baby teeth fell out and who would sometimes, with a total lack of self-consciousness, open her mouth for us at recess. My grandmother almost never read aloud to me, but she regularly took me to the library—I read and reread the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and both the Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys series—and my grandmother often summarized the grown-up books she’d read in tantalizing ways: A well-bred married woman falls in love with a man who is not her husband; after her husband learns of the betrayal, she has no choice but to throw herself in the path of an oncoming train . . .
Meet the Author
Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of The Man of My Dreams and Prep, which was chosen by The New York Times as one of the Ten Best Books of 2005. Her nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Salon, Allure, Glamour, and on public radio’s This American Life. Her books are being translated into twenty-five languages. www.curtissittenfeld.com
- Washington, D.C.
- Date of Birth:
- August 23, 1975
- Place of Birth:
- Cincinnati, Ohio
- B.A., Stanford University, 1997; M.F.A., University of Iowa (Iowa Writers¿ Workshop), 2001
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
"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!
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.
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!
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.
I could not bring myself to finish this book. The characters were entirely unappealing and the plot line was unimaginative. I was bored.
I listened to the unabridged version of this novel on CDs during a long driving trip. It was both moving and fascinating. Kimberly Farr's reading is expressive and and so crisp as to be occasionally almost prissy. Overall she does an excellent job of bringing the first lady, who narrates in the first person, to life. From the beginning, my sympathies were with Alice Blackwell, a quiet, intelligent young woman whose life is irrevocably changed by a tragic accident and the choices she makes following it. Ultimately she marries into a wealthy family whose self-satisfaction and smarmy clubbiness would be a trial to any bride, and whose least likely member - Alice's husband - becomes President. Through it all, Alice tries to remain true to herself no matter whose displeasure she incurs, and for this I could only admire her. An absorbing novel - and an excellent one for listening.
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.
I eagerly anticipated reading American Wife and I can say that I truly found it worthy of my time. I was drawn into the story from the beginning, and I found myself unable to stop because I wanted to know what happened next. It is made very clear by Ms. Sittenfeld that her novel was related to the life of Laura Bush. However, I found the characters in the novel to be more real and more believable than the Bush family. Perhaps it is due to the fact that in the case of Charlie and Alice Blackwell, we get to have an inside look at their lives, personalities, history, and motivations. As American citizens we are not afforded such a luxury concerning the First Family. I found Mrs. Blackwell to be redeemable character because I felt that there was acknowledgment of and repentance for the wrong doings created by the Blackwell presidency and her ¿Stepford Wife¿ personality. I sincerely hope the same can be said for Mrs. Bush.
If this book were not supposed to be about Laura Bush, the first 432 pages would be thought by many to be incredibly boring. Were they about Mary Jones of Fresno I doubt most readers would get to page 433. That's where we enter the White House years, and, although they are mostly Curtis Sittenfeld's version of them, the book finally comes alive, and Alice Blackwell becomes someone worth reading about. Hopefully Laura Bush bears some resemblance to Alice Blackwell.
When I first heard that Curtis Sittenfeld was releasing a new novel loosely based on the life of Laura Bush, I'll admit that I was a bit put off. I'm a lifelong liberal, so reading a book about the private life of President Bush and his family was not at the top of my to-do list. Still, I had enjoyed Prep and Man of my Dreams so I figured I'd give American Wife a shot. Once I started reading, I could not put it down. I was completely drawn into the world of Alice Blackwell and every few pages I found myself wondering how closely her life follows that of our First Lady. The story is divided into four parts, each at a different address and, in a sense, each encompassing a different version of Alice: a teenager in a small town where in an instant, a tragic accident destroys her imagined future a public school librarian caught up in a whirlwind romance with the charming and lovable Charlie Blackwell a wife whose marriage is on the brink of falling apart the First Lady of the United States realizing that the darkest secret of her past might finally have caught up with her. Another aspect of the story is the love Alice has for Charlie. Despite his personal flaws and political decisions she does not agree with, the fact remains that Charlie is her husband and Alice truly loves him. While not necessarily portraying the President Bush character in a positive way, Sittenfeld certainly doesn't paint him as an incompetent, warmongering monster. With just enough fact woven into the fiction, American Wife is sure to have everyone speculating about where the truth ends and the story begins - a definite must read this fall.
Wanted to liked this more, but it just fell somewhat flat for me.
"American Wife" by Curtis Sittenfeld is, first and foremost, an incredible well-written book. The main character and first-person narrator, Alice Lindgren Blackwell, is intricately drawn, complex, and entirely believable. She rings so incredibly true that I turned to the author bio to see if it provided any insight into how a man could understand a woman's mind so well. As it turns out, Curtis Sittenfeld is female, which makes a lot more sense. The reader follows Alice's life from her small-town teenage years through her marriage, along with her husband's political career. The book is at its best when it focuses on Alice, her life, and her relationships with others. Her motivations, thoughts, and actions are shared as she progresses through her life. This book is well worth reading for Alice's insights on marriage alone. Her relationship with Charlie Blackwell provides enough ideas and questions for an entire college "Psychology of Marriage" course. Another intriguing facet of the book is Charlie's career path. From an early foray into the political arena, to lollygagging in the family business, to baseball, and back to politics, his journey is fascinating to follow, especially through Alice's eyes. I'd have liked to see the story split into two books, with the second focusing entirely on the Blackwells' later political experiences. This one gave me enough to whet my appetite, but left me wanting more of that part of the story. The author's disclaimer calls the book "a work of fiction loosely inspired by the life of an American first lady." She goes on to say that Alice, Charlie, his parents, and some of his political cohorts are recognizable (this is true), but that all other characters and incidents are fictitious. The disclaimer left me wondering exactly how much of the story that centered on real people was true. Obviously some details (names, locations) had been changed for purposes of the story, but I'm left unsure of whether or not the characterizations were meant to be accurate. "American Wife" has left me eager to seek out authorized biographies of the real first lady and her husband in order to learn more. However, I think the book would have been stronger if a few more details had been changed and the story had been presented entirely as a work of fiction. As it stands, it shows Charlie and his family (and their real-life counterparts) in a somewhat negative light, and the reader is left wondering how much of the book was meant to be true, and how much was actually fiction. As such, I give it 3.5 out of 5 slices of provolone. I'd have gone higher based on the quality of the writing, but lower based on the ambiguities of fact vs. fiction. All in all, despite the 3.5 slice rating, this is a worthwhile novel to read. (Review first published on https://chewietellsall.wordpress.com/)
Not too hard to see that this author is a Liberal Democrat taking shots at Republicans! So glad I did not waste my time or money on this book and have put this author on the back burner, permanently! Thank you to those reviewers who honestly told it like it is!
This book is trash. I am a liberal and was particularly offended by the abortion story line. Don't waste your money.
I bought this book not knowing what I was buying. If I had known what trash was in it, I wouldn't have spent a penny on it. I only read a little bit and it's horrible how Laura Bush was portrayed. I seriously doubt the author got his stories from a reliable source and deliberately tried to make people think Laura Bush had mo morals. I will never buy another book from Sittenfeld.
A couple of years ago Curtis Sittenfeld wrote a novel the American Wife. It is based loosely off of Laura Bush and her husband. I had the opportunity to meet the author in the past. So, I then greatly anticipate sharing one of their books with you. Synopsis: Alice Lendgren is not your typical wife. Why? It is simple she is the wife of the president of the United States. Her husband is Charlie Blackwell. He is a member of the famous Blackwell family. How did Alice become a member? It all begins in a small town in Wisconsin. Where a tragic event takes place in her youth that changes her future. This tragic event impacts many around Alice in the small town of Riley Wisconsin. So she leaves to go to college in Madison and persue a career as a teacher. How will her choices impact her future? My Thoughts: While I was very excited to begin this novel; I lost enthusiasm towards the end. I have a difference of opinion with her political views. The story is very well written. I thought that the characters were well developed. I found some character traits questionable, but created interesting characters. I happened to listen to this novel. The narrator did an excellent job of telling the story. I found her very interesting. by Jencey Gortney/Writer'sCorner