A kind, bookish only child born in the 1940s, Alice learned the virtues of politeness early on from her stolid parents and small Wisconsin hometown. But a tragic accident when she was 17 shattered her identity and made her understand the fragility of life and the tenuousness of luck.
So more than a decade later, when she met boisterous, charismatic Charlie Blackwell, she hardly gave him a second look: She was serious and thoughtful, and he would rather crack a joke than offer a real insight; he was the wealthy son of a bastion family of the Republican Party, and she was a school librarian and registered Democrat. Comfortable in her quiet and unassuming life, she felt inured to his charms. And then, much to her surprise, Alice fell for Charlie.
As Alice learns to make her way amid the clannish energy and smug confidence of the Blackwell family, navigating the strange rituals of their country club and summer estate, she remains uneasy with her newfound good fortune. And when Charlie eventually becomes president, Alice is thrust into a position she did not seek, one of power and influence, privilege and responsibility.
As Charlie's tumultuous and controversial second term in the White House wears on, Alice must face contradictions years in the making: How can she both love and fundamentally disagree with her husband? How complicit has she been in the trajectory of her own life? What should she do when her private beliefs run against her public persona?
©2008 Curtis Sittenfeld; (P)2008 Books on Tape
"What a remarkable (and brave) thing: a compassionate, illuminating, and beautifully rendered portrait of a fictional Republican first lady with a life and husband very much like our actual Republican first lady's. Curtis Sittenfeld has written a novel as impressive as it is improbable." (Kurt Andersen)
Politics aside, the author does not make a convincing portrait of the character of the president. I found it inconceivable that the shallow buffoon depicted in Parts 1 and 2 would eventually occupy the White House, and the transition of his persona was not handled in a very convincing manner. From an internal narrative viewpoint, and from a character-development viewpoint the transition from privileged dilettante to world leader just seemed improbable.
I don't quite know why the wife needed to be cast as coming from a very middle class background - this made her part in the entire marriage look like a sellout. Of course she wouldn't leave her hard-drinking wealthy husband and all the perks of a high-end life. She runs away back to humble city, comes to her senses, suddenly and coincidentally her husband gets religion and is instantly sober! Vwalah, problem solved.
I kept wondering what the story would look like if the wife had more of a life of her own, was more of a player. As it is she just piggybacks on her husband's money and keeps her real opinions and beliefs to herself.
I did think the story was well-written, if a bit predictable in the beginning, but the book left me wondering as to the need for such a close approximation to real characters in real situations. Perhaps the dynamic would have been more interesting if the characters had been invented instead of derived from reality.
I would agree with other reviews on this book, that it's enjoyable 2/3 of the way through. The last part of the book just wasn't up to par with the others. I still enjoyed the book overall but it trailed off so much in the end that I had to find the time just to finish the last 2 hours. I wouldn't let this keep you from buying the book though. Maybe just the abridged version instead?
American Wife is an immature, obvious, boring, poorly written book that is written to glorify and romanticize Laura and George Bush. A complete waste of time.
This book is a testament to poor taste. Although written as a work of fiction, there are definite parallels to the life of Laura Bush, which the author readily admits. Political biases aside, the crudeness of the content was unnecessary and geared toward the interests of those who like a trashy read.
This was my first audio book, I had thought that I might have a problem concentrating on listening. This book was so good I didn't want to remove the earplugs. Entertaining, timely and a wonderful insight into what a first lady's life might be like. It really prompts one to think about privacy issues.
The 'American Wife' is a cardboard character--very two-dimentional. Also, I don't need to hear that our president was 'pumping inside her.' These are details not necessary to the story at all and not how I want to think about the leader of our country.
Never a fan of George W's, nor any of the Bushes for that matter, I really enjoyed this book! The narrator is excellent, and in my opinion, was able to capture the very essence of each character! You can "see" Barbara, as she reigns supreme over her unruly clan. Laura is a truly remarkable woman, who should be nominated for sainthood, and, like him or not, no one can deny George W's incredible tenacity.
It really doesn't matter how much of this story is fact or fiction...although from the many books I've read about this dynasty, there's a lot of truth here.
First of all, I'm always impressed when a male author can write so well in a woman's voice. This book also presents a plausible picture of what it might have been like being the wife of a well-known, recent president and also a believable characterization of the personality of that president. I felt like Sittenfeld did some thorough research and created a really believable story. For my taste though, there was a little too much graphic sex ... athough some might argue that it was important in establishing the nature of both the husband and the wife.
I so enjoyed this book. Sittenfeld has done an amazing job creating the characters, especially Alice. The story is unflinchingly honest and I got totally pulled into the world the author creates: the family, the struggles of this woman as a wife and mother. What a treat to read a story, and to get to know a character, so fully developed as this.
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