Review: American Wife

There has been a lot of discussion about the novel American Wife in recent years, readers wondering if this the true story of Laura Bush. I have owned a copy of this novel for about a year but after hearing that several people didn’t finish the book I put off reading it until this week. I just had to read it, see what all the hubbub is about.

Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of the bestselling novels American Wife, Prep, and The Man of My Dreams, which are being translated into twenty-five languages. Prep also was chosen as one of the Ten Best Books of 2005 by The New York Times, nominated for the UK's Orange Prize, and optioned by Paramount Pictures. Curtis won the Seventeen magazine fiction writing contest in 1992, at age sixteen, and since then her writing has appeared in many publications, including The Atlantic Monthly, Salon, Glamour, and on public radio's This American Life. A graduate of Stanford University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she was the 2002 - 2003 writer in residence at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C. (source: Authors website)
Reading an article posted on the authors website the author she says she is “a liberal who has this weird admiration for Laura Bush…. And if I'd wanted to write a book that was a hatchet job on Laura Bush — if that was my big goal — I could have made it 200 pages. But I wanted to explore the human heart much more than I wanted to explore politics”. It’s important to know this upfront as you read this book. There are many events from Laura Bush’s life that help build the plot and mold this book but I did read this as fiction and enjoyed it.

The novel opens the Alice as a young girl of eight and quickly moves to her teenage years, college, and meeting her husband at age 31. We read about the intimate details of marriage, the stories we often leave unspoken and the life of the strong woman behind the man.

After reading American Wife, I will be adding Prep to my list. I would like to read another title by this author.

Below is an interview with Time Magazine that caught my eye:
TIME: How did this idea come to you?

Curtis Sittenfeld: Soon after George W. Bush was elected I read a few articles about Laura Bush that made her seem different from what I would have expected. I learned that she's a big reader, and that she would invite people who had political opinions different from her husband's to events at the governor's mansion and then events at the White House. And then I read a biography of her in 2004 by Ann Gerhart called The Perfect Wife: The Life and Choices of Laura Bush. That reinforced the sense I had that she had led a really complex and interesting life. So I wrote this article for Salon — which I would not have written it if I'd known that I would end up writing this book — that was basically about being a liberal who has this weird admiration for Laura Bush. In that article I said that her life resembled a novel. And then two years later it occurred to me, I should write that novel. Click here to read the complete interview/article.
Type: Fiction, 555 pages, trade paperback
A kind, bookish only child born in the 1940s, Alice Lindgren has no idea that she will one day end up in the White House, married to the president. In her small Wisconsin hometown, she learns the virtues of politeness, but a tragic accident when she is seventeen shatters her identity and changes the trajectory of her life. More than a decade later, when the charismatic son of a powerful Republican family sweeps her off her feet, she is surprised to find herself admitted into a world of privilege. And when her husband unexpectedly becomes governor and then president, she discovers that she is married to a man she both loves and fundamentally disagrees with–and that her private beliefs increasingly run against her public persona. As her husband’s presidency enters its second term, Alice must confront contradictions years in the making and face questions nearly impossible to answer.

Reviews:An intimate and daring story… Alice is a woman of considerable intellect, compassion and character. – USA Today
An eye-opener… This searing page-turner.. will make you wonder what unspoken promises lis behind the smiles of any power couple. - Redbook