Rating: 8 out of 10
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 seventeen 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? (from bn.com)
My Thoughts: This is the controversial novel that was all over the news awhile ago because it is based quite closely on the life and times of our First Lady Laura Bush.
Alice Lindgren, the main character and narrator of American Wife, has several characteristics that tie her in closely to our current First Lady. She grew up in a small town, works as a librarian, and when she was 17, was involved in a deadly car accident that ended the life of a classmate. She eventually marries a man named Charlie Blackwell who comes from a dynastic political family, has a New England Ivy League education, and who becomes a Governor and then President of the United States.
This was a good read. You must keep in mind that it is not a biography of Laura Bush. The novel draws on several events, the ones mentioned above, to create a framework for the novel. But everything else is purely fiction, and pretty good fiction at that.
I think one of the things that most stood out to me while I was reading this novel was the constant realization of how young I am–how it wasn’t so long ago that racial segregation was legal. These things boggle me.
Alice Lindgren was a very sympathetic character. Everything she faced seemed very real, and I liked her as a person. Several moments I felt we shared similar personality traits.
Good, juicy read and I liked it significantly better than Sittenfeld’s first novel, Prep.