American Wife

American Wife

by Curtis Sittenfeld


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812975406
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/10/2009
Pages: 592
Sales rank: 107,258
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.30(d)

About 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.


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

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 . . .

Reading Group Guide

1. The novel opens and closes with Alice wondering if she’s made terrible mistakes. Do you think she has? If so, what are they?

2. Alice’s grandmother passes down her love of reading. How else is Alice influenced by her grandmother?

3. Why does Andrew remain such an important figure to Alice, even decades later? Do you think they would have ended up together under different circumstances?

4. To what do you attribute Dena’s anger at what she calls Alice’s betrayal? Do you believe her anger is justified?

5. Is Charlie a likable character? Can you understand Alice’s attraction to him?

6. Does Alice compromise herself and her ideals during her marriage, or does she realistically alter her behavior and expectations in order to preserve the most important relationship in her life?

7. Were you surprised by the scene between Alice and Joe at the Princeton reunion? Why do you think it happened?

8. What would you have done in Alice’s situation at the end of the novel? Do you think it was wrong of her to take the stance she did?

9. How do you think Laura Bush would react to this novel if she read it?


1. The novel opens and closes with Alice wondering if she's made terrible mistakes. Do you think she has? If so, what are they?

2. Alice's grandmother passes down her love of reading to Alice. How else is Alice influenced by her grandmother?

3. Why does Andrew remain such an important figure to Alice, even decades later? Do you think they would have ended up together under different circumstances?

4. To what do you attribute Dena's anger at what she calls Alice's betrayal? Do you believe her anger is justified?

5. Is Charlie a likable character? Can you understand Alice's attraction to him?

6. Does Alice compromise herself and her ideals during her marriage, or does she realistically alter her behavior and expectations in order to preserve the most important relationship in her life?

7. Were you surprised by the scene between Alice and Joe at the Princeton reunion? Why do you think it happened?

8. What would you have done in Alice's situation at the end of the novel? Do you think it was wrong of her to take the stance she did?

9. How do you think Laura Bush would react to this novel if she read it?

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American Wife 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 322 reviews.
blue2280 More than 1 year ago
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.
pjpick More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
eak321 More than 1 year ago
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.
LauraReviews More than 1 year ago
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!
Prince-of-Wales More than 1 year ago
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.
carol_park More than 1 year ago
"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!
BuffaloGal More than 1 year ago
This book is a tawdry cheap-shot at a lovely decent person. Taking well known specific events from a known person life then adding some unsavory sex and outrageous personal analysis about that person's marriage adds up to a gross invasion of privacy. Calling it a "novel" is a sad attempt to excuse the author's ineptness. She is simply a writer who took the easy, sensational, road at Laura Bush's expense. Neither Laura, nor the intelligent reading public, deserves this trash. Yet Sittenfeld gets praise. Makes me wonder about the reading public. Having read two of her other books, (Pemberly is fun, Prep disgusting) I'm done with Sittenfeld. She belittles women, makes them brainless sexual slaves to undeserving men, yet is praised as a "good" writer. I think she got her start writing for tabloids and has gone downhill ever since. I am done with Curtis Sittenfeld. If your're smart and have taste, you should be too. I am forced by this system to give one star to the book. I'd prefer to give it -10.
LadyLoveMonster More than 1 year ago
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.
MamaMiaMO More than 1 year ago
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!
BookmarkCP More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not bring myself to finish this book. The characters were entirely unappealing and the plot line was unimaginative. I was bored.
emmi331 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
KenCady More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
chrystal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It was really about one womans life; an only child with a terrible car accident as a teen that killed a boy she had a crush on, her life and marriage. The characters were excellent, and you could not think of anyone other than the Bushes while reading. The author portrays what the future first ladys life must really be like. I felt connected to Alice- so many of her actions, decisions and thoughts reminded me exactly of myself. The ending was somewhat preachy, kind of like the author was trying to make a huge statement on the war on iraq which seems to come on you suddenly. Still, I loved this book.
lalalibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Whenever I read a Curtis Sittenfeld book I'm completely swept away. I ignore life and other people for a few days and I'm obsessed. Her characters are always very real and seem like composites of people I know. I loved American Wife most of all her books. After reading this book, I want to go find Laura Bush and not only be her friend, but find out just how accurate Sittenfeld's conclusions are. As soon as I finished this book, I wanted all my friends to read it so we could talk about it, too.
koratheexplora on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book! Curtis is the most amazing author, so I knew anything by her would be great, but I was used to reading "Prep." Since "Prep" features a young character around my age I didn't know if I would be able to relate to Alice's older character. However, Sittenfeld goes through her whole life so you really get a since of who the character is and why she makes certain choices in her life later on. I typically read YA books more even though I am 19, so I can recomend them to my sister, and since I want to teach, however I was so glad to finally have a book to recomend to my adult friends! American Wife really made me think about my beliefs, my future, and if I would change the way I felt once I got to that age. I could really relate to Alice because she was just a typical small town girl who didn't felt she fit in where she was. I had something tramatic happen when I was young, like her, that has kind of shaped my life, as it did hers. She loves books, was a teacher than a librarian, and is a Democrat. However lots of those things change when she falls in love with a rich, but caring Republican. It got me thinking about if I would be willing to give up, or change, things about me just for love. This book left me feeling enlightened and inspired (which I usually feel after reading a good book), but also left me feeling confused, but in a good way. Those feelings are feelings I have never felt together about the same book. I usually feel confused if I didn't understand the book, but this one left me more confused about myself. As a romantic, cheezy book junky (not trash paperbacks though, those kill me to read!) this book fufilled those cravings but also gave me something to think about.The length of this book is a bit long, but this left me loving it more because I could savor it as apposed to it being over quickly. There weren't slow parts as you might imagine. Don't let the page numbers fool you into thinking it will be boring, Sittenfeld's novel with definately not disapoint! Go pick up your copy now!
simplykatie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
i could easily relate to the early parts of this book, especially considering how much i enjoy reading and books. however, it was hard to not think of the possible real-life counterparts of george and laura bush. is this a fictional story? is this based on true? i think it's a combination of both. even though this book was a departure from sittenfeld's previous works, i still enjoyed it.
TheLostEntwife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I feel like I should cut my review into half (along with the book) and do two separate reviews because I really got into the first half of this book and by the time the second half came around I really just.. wanted it to end.Yes, let me just get this out of the way, this is a fictionalized tale of Laura Bush and George Bush, Jr¿s life up through their presidency. It was a bit distracting, because I kept expecting her to move to Texas at some point, but it was set in a different state for a reason ¿ but again, the state thing really threw me. Once I got into the story and started to really figure out who Alice Blackwell was my curiosity was piqued. Did these things really happen? And I consider that a good thing, because it inspires me to read more and learn more about the people sharing this earth with me.However, once Alice and her husband, Charlie, were married and the marriage began to suffer, as do all marriages where there is high tension, then things began to slide downhill for me. I got a bit of the impression that I was being preached at ¿ and in a fictional story like this one, that¿s not something I enjoy (heck, it¿s not something I enjoy in any sort of book). I got the feeling that the author was manipulating her character too much and it made me feel.. uncomfortable. Yes, I know it¿s fictional ¿ but still.. it¿s a thin line when you base a character on a real person. I don¿t know how else to say it, it just made me uncomfortable.I am glad I finished the book. I am glad it no longer takes a spot on my TBR shelf. I¿m a bit melancholy that I didn¿t like it more ¿ but I think I¿ll stick to Sittenfelds other titles dealing with purely fictional characters in the future.
zibilee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Alice Lindgren is a small town girl growing up in 1950's Wisconsin. She has a loving family life and is particularly close to her stylish and witty grandmother, who also lives with her family. When Alice becomes a teenager, she is involved in a tragic accident that has serious repercussions for herself and a young boy in whom she is interested. Despite setbacks after the accident, Alice moves on with her life and becomes a librarian in a public school. She is looking forward to buying a house and spending time with friends when she meets the handsome and enigmatic Charlie Blackwell. Charlie's family owns the meat plant where he has a high profile job, and he and his family are extremely wealthy. Though Alice at first resists Charlie's advances, they become a couple and are soon married. In an effort to carve out a legacy for himself, Charlie tries to obtain work in other fields, eventually running for political office, first as Governor, and ultimately President. Alice continuously supports Charlie even though she doesn't want him to run for office, choosing silence instead of dissent. In addition to having to deal with his large boisterous family, she has to become the nation's First Lady. Throughout Alice and Charlie's marriage, they share the joy of raising a child and the tumultuous effects of addiction, fame, and power.This book was obliquely modeled after the life and times of Laura Bush, and as I was reading, I was wondering just how much was fiction and how much was truth. Whether this account is accurate or highly embellished, I tried to view the book as a novel of complete fiction, as to speculate too much about the author's intended subject may have colored my view on the book unnecessarily. First of all, though Alice was a fantastically deep character who seemed to know her emotions and behaviors well, she came off as somewhat of a pushover. When Charlie or his family treat her shabbily, she rolls over and quietly takes the abuse. There were times I felt so frustrated at her meekness, letting her husband dictate their way of life and having adult temper tantrums when he didn't get his way. Alice, meanwhile, quietly endures, never wanting to be a nag or obstacle for him. Sure, in her moments of reflection, we see that Alice really does have an opinion, and she does aspire to better things, but she never puts that into action. I would have liked her more if she would have been stronger and told Charlie how she felt, instead of being a supplicant to all of his needs. Though Charlie does make a turnaround in his behavior, the turnaround seems half-hearted. Charlie still did what Charlie wanted, despite Alice's wishes, only now he did it in a nicer way. It was odd to see a character who was so aware of her emotions, so tuned into what was right and how she was feeling, act so submissive to her true beliefs. In some ways this made her drab and unscrupulous. She would have been far more able to control her situation and life if she only spoke up! The result is that she has a higher popularity rating then her husband, but while being decidedly differing in her beliefs, she continues to meekly support him. I liked Alice. Mostly. I liked her intelligence, tact and pragmatism, but I didn't like her docile and modest attitude. Her inability to speak up and act decisively made her seem weak and ineffectual.I did not at all like Charlie Blackwell. I found him to be egotistical and self-centered. He was disrespectful to almost everyone and had a huge reckless streak. I found it hard to sympathize with him or to take him seriously. It never became clear to me why Alice married him, and often it seemed he wore her down with all his antics. Charlie never seemed to have the proper gravity that a man in a high position must have in order to be respected, and his embracing of religion seemed to be devised to deflect negative repercussions of his behavior. At times pushy, at times whiny, Charlie was always self-absorbed. I was so angry
alanna1122 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I will preface this review by saying that I LOVED Sittenfeld's "Prep" and came to it with pretty darn high expectations.I have been trying to figure out why it took me so long to get through this book and why I felt it was so easy to put down. Some of the reasons are my own. Some had to do with the writing. First the unfair stuff. I had the hard cover. It is HUGE. Very hard to tote around and sneak reading in here and there. Because of its unwieldy size I had less opportunity to dive into it because it just wasn't portable. Second. I just really couldn't get to the point where I was at all sympathetic or interested in a character based on GWB. I think she must have done a little too good of a job capturing his essence because I was so turned off by the character of Charlie it made it really hard to get through the courtship passages. I lost respect for Alice for being attracted to him. It was in the parts where I know Sittenfeld was trying to show Charlie's likable streak that annoyed me the most. I couldn't get past the swarmy-ness and shallowness.Third. I feel like the end of the book is very strange. We plod along with a chronological narrative for hundreds of pages then in the last 50 the main character identifies that she has a deep seated issue and then she confronts its almost immediately. It was a very fast turnaround to me that didn't seem to have the same tempo as the rest of the novel. It felt jarring to me. I think if there had been a slower exploration of Alice's issues throughout the novel it would have worked better.The good - I still feel that Sittenfeld is a good writer. There were moments when she was able to articulate things in way that I found quite revealing or beautiful to me. Unfortunately there weren't enough of those moments in this novel to make this a pleasurable read for me.
mrs.starbucks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have to say I take the opposite view from most readers. I really liked the end better than the preceding three sections. Towards the end it finally became reflective, and in my opinion, worthwhile. I almost gave up on reading it, but it did redeem itself, even though the transition between her "former" life and life as the President's wife was, I agree, a little abrupt. The fiction very much stayed fiction. The veiled references to George Bush aside, I found Charlie to be nothing like the image of George Bush I have in my own head, and I don't know a thing about Laura Bush to begin with.