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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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?
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.
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