«

Book Review: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Becca Benz Good Reads with Becca

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

This book surprised me in many ways. I almost put it back on the shelf at the library because a book about a First Lady is not something which would normally appeal to me, but Curtis Sittenfeld is an author I recently discovered so I figured what the heck, I’ll give it a try. It was the last book I read from the stack I’d checked out, and I have to say it was much better than expected. The story is a first-person narrative told from First Lady Alice Lindgren’s point of view, and is focused more on the personal relationships of the people rather than politics, which helped because I read for enjoyment and politics is the absolute last thing I want to read about. At 555 pages it’s a hefty book but surprisingly it was an easy and enjoyable read, given the subject matter.

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. When her husband unexpectedly becomes governor and then president, she discovers 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.

Curtis Sittenfeld American Wife Becca BenzI knew the book was a fictionalized account of the life of a real First Lady, although I didn’t know which one, but it became clear early on that Alice Lindgren was based on Laura Bush, husband of George W. Bush. I never liked or supported Bush during his two terms as President and felt he was basically just a big dufus, and Laura Bush always seemed like a stuck-up bitch. I have a lot more respect for former President George H. W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush; they both seemed more genuine and competent, and likeable, especially Barbara Bush. So, it was rather shocking that the fictional portrayal of Barbara Bush painted her in very unflattering light, although I have not checked into how accurate that is. And to my amazement, Laura Bush was portrayed as a very down to earth and decent person who was not always in agreement with her husband’s policies or life choices. As I got deeper into the book and realized I liked Alice’s character and felt empathy for her, I had a hard time reconciling the fact that this likeable person was the same person I spent my life feeling utter contempt and loathing for.

The half first three sections were the most enjoyable because they focus on Alice as she grows up and builds her identity and life; the last section muddled along as the story got bogged down in politics. It was interesting to get an inside glimpse into what’s it’s like to be a First Lady and all the logistics involved, as well as the sacrifices. This is a fictionalized account of her life, but while I was reading the book I spent time online learning more about the real Laura Bush, and the book is a very accurate portrayal of her life. And I must admit I have a newfound respect for Laura Bush as a person and as a First Lady, and while I will never change my view about what a terrible president George W. Bush was, this book gave me new insight into his life and his administration. I’m even planning to read Laura Bush’s autobiography, which is something I’d never thought I’d say lol

This was an enjoyable book which I recommend and reinforces my view that Curtis Sittenfeld is a powerhouse writer.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>