As America's Mercury Seven astronauts were launched on death-defying missions, television cameras focused on the brave smiles of their young wives. Overnight, these women were transformed from military spouses into American royalty. They had tea with Jackie Kennedy, appeared on the cover of Life magazine, and quickly grew into fashion icons.
Annie Glenn, with her picture-perfect marriage, was the envy of the other wives; platinum-blonde Rene Carpenter was proclaimed JFK's favorite; and licensed pilot Trudy Cooper arrived on base with a secret. Together with the other wives they formed the Astronaut Wives Club, meeting regularly to provide support and friendship. Many became next-door neighbors and helped to raise each other's children by day, while going to glam parties at night as the country raced to land a man on the Moon.
As their celebrity rose - and as divorce and tragic death began to touch their lives - they continued to rally together, and the wives have now been friends for more than fifty years. The Astronaut Wives Club tells the real story of the women who stood beside some of the biggest heroes in American history.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.
©2013 Lily Koppel (P)2013 Hachette Audio
Ardent Audible listener with a long commute!
I am a huge fan of Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead" (2013). I thought Lily Koppel's "The Astronaut Wives Club" (2013) would be the antithesis of "Lean In", but I was intrigued by a great review on NPR's Morning Edition. One of my earliest memories is of the January 27, 1967 fire that killed three astronauts on the launch pad, and I suddenly wondered how those wives had handled that.
Curious, and bolstered by Audible's no questions asked return policy in case I didn't like the AWC (as the members of "The Astronaut Wives Club" refer to the group) I decided to listen.
The AWC is a fascinating study of a place (Texas) and time (late 1950's and the 1960's) where NASA created what appeared to be the perfect community to nurture astronauts into space and eventually to the moon. The wives, followed by Life magazine and hoards of hungry press, presented a convincing facade of suburban living , cooking streak-and-eggs breakfasts, wearing exquisite dresses, with carefully coifed hair. The wives were expected to be rocks of support, not letting their own families or the rest of the world know how frightening what their husbands were doing was.
The facade was just that - a mask, and the members of the AWC joined together to support each other and mortar the cracks that inevitably formed. While their husbands competed on making history in space (and sometimes on the ground with the number of 'Cape Cookies' they could bag), the AWC supported each other with ham loaf, tuna casseroles, jello molds, and chats over plenty of coffee and cigarettes.
Most of the AWC didn't work outside the home, but most middle and upper class women didn't at the time. Being an astronaut's wife was like being an unwilling star of an unrelenting reality show.
I had initially held the members of the AWC in disdain because they seemed to derive their identities from their husbands, but like other women of that era, they did not have the options we do half a century later.
The AWC was and is a space pioneer "Lean In" group.
The narration was a bit off - not everyone could have had a Texas accent - but the pace was good.
Audible, you're safe. I won't be returning this one.
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Far less individual perspective than I expected. Several flat out errors of fact which made me very suspicious of the material I was less familiar with. Valentina Tereshkova was not pregnant at the time of her flight. Don Eisle was not fired from NASA. Items such as these made me question the research that went into this book.
The performance was truly painful. I cringed each time the reader mispronounced Gus Grissom's name. It is NOT pronounced GriSHam. Gus gave his life in the service of his country. At least give him the respect of pronouncing his name correctly.
The male accents were similarly painful to listen to. If the reader had simply used her own voice for all the characters it would have been far less annoying than making them all sound like characters out of Tobacco Road.
Great ideal for a book but failed to live up to its promise. The wives certainly had a unique perspective but this book provides very little new information.
I love memoirs, but this was a huge disappointment. I wanted to know what the wives were thinking, how they felt. Instead I got superficial clothing descriptions and name dropping. I don't care that the someone's son had shimmering, snow white blond locks or what color the swirls were on her paisley dress.
The key pioints in NASA history were glossed over so we could hear about the clothes, the furniture, the mundane stuff. In fact, the Apollo 13 crises was covered in about 3 minutes.
These women came across as mindless, Stepford wives, which I am sure is not true. Even in that time period I'm sure they had thoughts, opinions and feelings. None of that came out. Don't waste your credit.
More depth and detail, less pop culture. The narrator was terrible.
What a waste of my time and credit
Since I grew up around Clear Lake & Houston, this book is near to my heart. Koppel has received mixed reviews for this book but I thought she delved into what the women really went thru while their husbands were in space. I loved the descriptions of the houses in El Lago because I just did a 5k race thru that neighborhood with signs that marked each astronauts house. Great read and I will probably listen to it again.
Her voice was very robotic and reminded me of Siri from Apple Iphone. The only reason I finished it was that I grew up in Houston and loved the NASA history. I WILL NOT listen to another book done by Orlagh Cassidy.
The housewives El Lago
I would, though I'd be less inclined to recommend the audio version of the book as the narration was absolutely atrocious. Additionally, I think that having a preexisting interest in and cursory familiarity with the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs (along with the individuals comprising them) would be important in being able to enjoy this book.
There were some revelations I'd never been aware of, and I've been reading about the beginnings of the space program and the Mercury Astronauts since I was a child. It was humorous at times, sad at others, but overall generally interesting.
Absolutely not. Without question, this was the worst narration of a book I've ever heard. Orlagh Cassidy's attempts to mimic/impersonate certain people, accents, genders, etc. was just so awful. It was condescending, distracting, and terrible. If she was going to affect Southern accents or Kennedy-esque Boston accents, she at least could have been good at them! She should have simply read the quotations from the characters in her normal voice (which is fine in and of itself). If she'd done that, it would have made for a much more satisfactory listening experience.
WORST NARRATION EVER. HORRIBLE ATTEMPTS AT VARIOUS ACCENTS AND IMPERSONATIONS.
I've been fascinated with the early space program, followed the Mercury, Geminii, and Apollo flights with great interest, and have read and collected books about them ever since.
Ms. Koppel's book is a wonderful adjunct to the more technical tomes and 'lives of the astronauts' works. Who says that the pressure cooker environment that the men went through was any more difficult that that of the women? With the men, they had NASA's resources for assistance, but the women only had each other. Perhaps that I'm married to a woman tougher and more capable and competant to most men that I know makes me appreciate a little more the strength of these remarkable women. In some cases, it's entirely possible that Gordo Cooper's spouse, Trudy, would have done a better job in space than he did.
My greatest respect is for Betty Grissom. Here is a woman who handled the most trying circumstances possible with iron resolve and great grace. And the Grissoms bring me to my major objection with the audiobook; the reader, throughout the book, mispronounces the name as "Grisham", like the author of the legal thrillers. And it isn't because of a confusing spelling, either; where is she (AND the director/producer who allowed this) getting the 'sh' in the middle of the name?
Because of the stature of the Grissom's service to America, this mispronunciation isn't just irritating, but demeaning, sloppy, and lazy. I found myself driving while listening to the book, and screaming, "Grissom! GriSSOM! GRISSOM!!'
I gave the book to my wife, who started it this morning, and........yes, she's gotten to the first one. I can hear her thundering in the other room, "Grissom, damn it! GriSSOM! GRISSOM!!"
Yes. It was a book that the ending took me by surprise so I would go back and listen again. Also there were so many characters that it was hard keeping them straight.
Really learning what it was like for thm back in the late 50's and 60's. Most of this is not taught in school and I found seeing it through the womens eyes was fasinating.
Each character was wonderful but I think Rene was the best. she really showed that just because you were a famous astro wife you could alos fulfill your professional needs as well.
Life as an Astro wife..
No. It is short on narrative and long on trite details. It is gossipy in tone..both written and narration.
YES! The tone became sarcastic when passages were describing the husband's behaviors...much as though a group of unhappy women were sharing their husband's miss-deeds. Very unpleasant to listen to.
It needs a completely new book with more factual information from the wives...more integration into the history of the times.
I am only 8 chapters into it, and I am already cringing when I hear the narrator quote Kennedy or launch into a male voice. I have not paid much attention to critiques re narration before, but wish I had before purchasing this.
I have always been a fan of the space program and the stories behind how those great men put themselves on top of a "bomb" and said "Light it up!" However, all we knew about the wives was that they were always smiling, always supportive, and nothing could get them down. Thanks heavens for this book. Guess what? They were human beings. They had their own dreams and goals and lives that we knew nothing about.
I enjoyed this audiobook very much. I loved hearing from their points of view how things did and did not work in both the NASA family and their immediate families. I respected the choices that were made by all the women, whether or not I agreed with them, and I am better for this glimpse into the world of women who were strong, if not stronger, than their husbands because they really had no choice. Well done.
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