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)
I love espionage, legal, and detective thrillers but listen to most genres. Very frequent reviews. No plot spoilers! Please excuse my typos!
I'm a retired 72 year old who has been an Audible member since December 2006. I purchased and listened to this fictionalized political hit piece in May 2009 before Audible has a return policy. My review is 6+ years late. In reviewing my Audible, Kindle, and hardback/paperback purchases beginning in January 2007 I find that I have read or listened to over 1400 books during those 9 years. The list is approximately 15% non-fiction and 85% fiction. I browsing through the 1400+ titles American Wife stands out as clearly the worst book that I have read. It is disgusting!
The American wife is named Alice Blackwell, but is a thinly disguised Laura Welch Bush, wife of George W Bush. . The sad part is that many ignorant readers and reviewers view this totally fictionalized novel as a true description of Laura and George W Bush. It is not true folks; it is just trashy fiction.
Held my attention the entire way through. Drops off a bit toward the end but i can overlook that. Who cares if it's based on Laura Bush? It's a good story. STORY. As in fiction. I enjoyed it.
Wow...what a book. The author weaves an intricate tapestry of characters, plots and history. Not politically offensive.....get the unabridged version...it's about 21 hours, but I found it hard to stop listening. Terrific writing. Worth the money/credit. I'm a new fan for sure!
I absolutely loved this title for many reasons. The reader was excellent and some might find the story lengthy but I feel it was worth it from beginning to end. The story was one that was so relevant to myself from the early teens through my 30's. The relationships, family struggles and society expectations always rang so true. Loved it. Hope you will too.
English major. Love to read
I enjoyed this book thoroughly - mostly because the writer is excellent. I sometimes agree with the hype about the fictionalization of real people and questioned at first whether or not Laura Bush would be a particularly charismatic subject, but I was won over. I think it's because of the combination of superb writing and thorough research. It's clear from the get-go that it's fiction, conjecture, just possibilities. I didn't come away with more sympathy for George W. Bush but with some understanding at least as to why she might see something in him and I also think more highly of her. Excellent narration as well.
I have read Sittenfeld's other books, Prep and The Man of My Dreams, and enjoyed both. I think she is a talented writer, so gave this book a chance.
I think her storyline is fascinating but only because it is modeled after Laura Bush. I wish she used her imagination to write a fresh work of fiction... or she could just stick to the facts and write a true biography about someone.
The last section of the book (the White House years) is incredibly disappointing, and I felt as though the author was just force-feeding me her anti-war, pro-choice views. I actually jumped ahead of a long rant about the War at one point.
The best parts of the book were those that focused on the characters, their day-to-day lives, and their personal stories. "Alice's" long musings about her life's decisions and Andrew (the character she kills in a car accident) get very old by the end of the book.
Charlie is a weak character who's faith and intelligence is mocked by Alice (and the author--another attempt to take a swipe at GWB and his Presidency.)
So, would I recommend this book? Yes - only if you have an interest in politics and lot of driving ahead of you. If it were a complete work of the author's imagination, it would be fascinating...but I found myself disgusted with the authors attempt to push her anti-Bush views on her audience via the main character--Alice Blackwell.
This book seemed to be Sittenfeld's way of sharing her own extremist liberal views behind the context of a 'in-her-mind-moderate' main character & narrator. She doubled her bet by allowing her main character to marry an idiotic man who happens to be a republican and never allows him a chance to share the real reasons behind his views. This very idiot happens to become the President of the United States. It was difficult to make it through the last two hours of listening due to such a one sided, unfair viewpoint,therefore making it very unbelievable.
It's impossible to listen without wondering what parts of the story are true. I'm not sure the story would be that interesting without the subtext of the "Bush Dynasty". The author's style is to write details down to the most minute, and at times it can be too much - just get to the story. But it's endurable if you can also imagine that the story is about Laura Bush. By itself the story would be too tedious and probably boring.
The narrator was perfect for her character Alice. A mid-west wife, her voice and performance fit the character perfectly. She doesn't have too much range when she's speaking the parts of others, but it works because the entire story is told from Alice's point of view so in that sense you would expect to hear her husband's dialogue, for instance, as told by Alice.
In all, the tie-in to an actual First Lady makes the story interesting but I find myself wondering, well did any of this actually happen, or is it just the author's fantasy of what she wishes Laura Bush did and felt? If the latter, what was the point of reading the story?
Although I wasn't a big fan of "Prep," author Curtis Sittenfeld does a great job with this fictionalized account of the Bush clan and Laura Bush. I found it surprisingly engrossing. I don't see at as fawning, as some reviewers have, but as a different perspective on the events of the last eight years - whether or not you are a fan of the Bushes. I also found her portrait of the Blackwell clan at Halcyon hysterical. You could actuially see these events happening. With the dead-on portraits Sittenfeld creates, it can be hard to remember that this is a work of fiction, after all. As with "Prep," I find a lot the prose in Sittenfeld's bedroom scenes to be somewhat jarring. It doesn't always seem necessary to go there. I did find the Alice character to be passive to the point of irritation but also finished the book wanting to know more about her model, the real Laura Bush.
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.
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