Last month I read American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfield (a woman) with my a couple of friends from college. We concocted the idea to have a virtual book group and it was our first success!
The book is a novel, but loosely (and not so loosely in places) follows the life of Former First Lady Laura Bush. Certain liberties are taken, naturally, but most of the major life events are present.
It is the story of Alice Lindgren Blackwell. She is an only child who must endure a series of unspeakable tragedies early in life. Later, she meets Charlie Blackwell, the youngest son of a prominent political family, and they wed after a whirlwind romance.
The story is written in four blocks, identified by her addresses. First her childhood home, then her apartment as a single thirty-something, next the home she shares with Charlie and their daughter in the suburbs, and finally, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. A series of flashbacks fills in the gaps between those locations, but a large number of years passes between each installment.
I enjoyed the book. I more or less knew what was going to happen (or so I thought), because I was vaguely familiar with the events of Laura Bush's life, but it was still shocking in parts. The writing was powerful, and the characterization vivid. I found myself with much more sympathy and interest for real-life political figures that I never previously care for after reading this book. I feel like I know Laura Bush better after reading this book, although that's probably a false impression. I am dying to know if she's read it, and what her reaction is. Although it shares raw moments and emotions, overall, I think it portrays Alice in a very positive, yet honest, light.
Our online chat about American Wife was delightful! The discussion covered a number of topics and included a little friendly disagreement. My fellow readers helped me to see how much this book is about relationships. Friendships, marriages, siblings, parents and children...they are all in this novel, and they are all complicated. We also had an interesting conversation about whether or not Charlie would have ascended to such high political office if he had not married Alice. I'm quite certain he wouldn't have.
Has anyone else read this book? It's long, but reads pretty fast, and I would definitely recommend it. As a work of fiction, it is entertaining and thought-provoking. However, it's link to reality makes it all the more fascinating. Katie, please share your thoughts if you like!!