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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?

©2008 Curtis Sittenfeld; (P)2008 Books on Tape

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.9 out of 5.0
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  • Story

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • jennifer
  • BROOKLYN, NY, United States
  • 06-24-14

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.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Summer
  • Marietta, GA, United States
  • 10-04-08

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!

7 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jessica
  • Washington, DC, United States
  • 08-26-10

Interesting but Insulting

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.

8 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Wayne
  • Matthews, NC
  • 10-07-15

Totally disgusting trash! Worst novel ever?

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.



7 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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.

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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.

4 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Very long but says very little

There are so many times I almost stopped reading this book - it was tedious and written in excruciating and unnecessary detail- but I pushed through, hoping for some twist or climax further along. Unfortunately the most engrossing and climactic part of the book occurs in the beginning when the protagonist, Alice Blackwell nee Lindgren, is still a young girl full of independence, promise, and ambition. That girl is lost to a dull, passive, weak-willed, and ultimately jaded wife and then First Lady as the story progresses. Her character was not likeable nor were the others really. I initially enjoyed Charlie’s character despite its simplicity but he also became much less likeable as the book went on. This book would have been much better had it quit while it was ahead.

It was interesting to read and consider the complex intersections of personal beliefs and public persona and of commitment to your marriage v. commitment to your morals and/or country as well as the morality of speaking out against something with which you inherently disagree v. the complicity of idly standing by. This is even more relevant in today’s political climate than it was in 2008, and I consider Alice’s to be a cautionary tale.

Curtis Sittenfeld really blurs the line between fact and fiction with this one and not always in a good way. Not knowing much about Laura Bush, I can’t help but conflate her with the protagonist because of how parallel their stories are, although Sittenfeld claims to have based only 15% of the book on real-life details. Despite my continual reminders otherwise as I was reading, Alice Blackwell was basically Laura Bush to me. This blurring is at best confusing and at worst misleading to the reader.

I also disagree wholeheartedly with the reviews describing this book as ‘feminist.’ Alice personified some of the worst stereotypes ascribed to women - that we are passive, weak, meek, and should be subservient to and exist in a supporting role to the men in our lives. Being privy to Alice’s inner monologue gives the reader a glimpse into her intellectual independence though this almost makes it worse and she does show signs of asserting herself at the end of the book but this is not enough. The character is more anti-feminist than feminist.

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  • Chelsea
  • LOS ANGELES, CA, US
  • 01-16-17

wonderful book, captivating

what an exceptional story of a woman's life and the choices she has made throughout it.

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Wondering What Is True Distracts

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?