American Wife

A Novel
Narrated by: Kimberly Farr
Length: 23 hrs and 23 mins
3.9 out of 5 stars (567 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

On what might become one of the most significant days in her husband’s presidency, Alice Blackwell considers the strange and unlikely path that has led her to the White House - and the repercussions of a life lived, as she puts it, “almost in opposition to itself.” 

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? 

In Alice Blackwell, New York Times best-selling author Curtis Sittenfeld has created her most dynamic and complex heroine yet. American Wife is a gorgeously written novel that weaves class, wealth, race, and the exigencies of fate into a brilliant tapestry - a novel in which the unexpected becomes inevitable, and the pleasures and pain of intimacy and love are laid bare.  

Praise for American Wife 

“Curtis Sittenfeld is an amazing writer, and American Wife is a brave and moving novel about the intersection of private and public life in America. Ambitious and humble at the same time, Sittenfeld refuses to trivialize or simplify people, whether real or imagined.” (Richard Russo)

“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)

©2008 Curtis Sittenfeld (P)2008 Books on Tape

Critic Reviews

“A well-researched book that imagines what lies behind that placid façade of the first lady...Ms. Sittenfeld was not out to sensationalize but to sympathize. (Maureen Dowd, The New York Times)

“A smart and sophisticated portrait of a high-profile political wife...Sittenfeld has an astonishing gift for creating characters that take up residence in readers’ heads.” (Connie Schultz, Washington Post Book World

“Brilliant...[A] triumph...Curtis Sittenfeld has provided a plausible secret history of an American embarrassment - and a grand entertainment.” (Joe Klein, Time magazine) 

What listeners say about American Wife

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A pleasant surprise

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.

8 people found this helpful

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Too long and very preachy.

This book is much too long and by the time I was half way through, I really disliked the main character and her over analyzing of her every thought. Her self-righteousness became so obnoxious! I have enjoyed other Sittenfield books, but this was disappointing and needed major editing. The narrator did an excellent job.

3 people found this helpful

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Story of a Marriage

I was so surprised at how much I liked the little details in this relationship. I might normally skip ahead, but these details are what brought the characters to life for me. It doesn't matter if this book was based upon real people in our history or not. It was a fascinating book.

6 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

A Unique Perspective

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.

8 people found this helpful

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Great Book, We’ll Written

This was is truly well written book with fantastic narration. The first 3/4 is especially engaging.

1 person found this helpful

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Excellent!

This was very interesting storytelling no matter how closely it adhered to facts regarding Laura and George. The parallels were nevertheless evident. I enjoyed this book very much.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Mesmerizing and Enchanting!

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!

10 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent 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.

7 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

American Wife

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.

5 people found this helpful

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Fictional version of First Lady

likeable main character, good reader, story changes a little abrubtly 2/3 way in hard to follow after that.