book club: american wife

May 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

I think I’m a little behind the bandwagon on this book, but I don’t care. I’m going to rec it anyway.

I’m not going to lie, I was hesitant to read American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. It is loosely based on the life of Laura Bush, who in all honesty, has never been someone I particularly liked or had a great deal of respect for. But I also didn’t know anything about her except that her name was Laura and she was the First Lady and sort of always looked a little drugged. Sorry if that offended anyone, it was just my very uninformed opinion.

This book was beautiful. I really enjoyed the characterization and the tone of the author. One problem I had is that, like I said before, I know close to nothing about Laura Bush and that made it difficult to judge what was real and what was the imagination of the author. American Wife deals with some pretty serious issues: addiction, abortion, homosexuality, family dynamics…but it manages t do it in a completely relatable way. The character of Alice is a thoughtful and diplomatic woman, able to see many sides of every issue and then form as good a conclusion or decision as possible with the information available.

For me, the most relatable aspect of her character was Alice’s love of reading and her avid consumption of novels. There’s a line in the book about how each novel gives her a temporary filter or new vantage point on her life. I love that idea and see it in myself and my thought processes. When I’m immersed in any fictitious world, I see the real world as a different place and love imagining the world full of whatever characters I’m reading about.

In many reviews I’ve read, people find the ending a bit unsatisfactory. I really liked the ending. I thought it was a complete and thoughtful, and maybe just a little bit sad, description of a woman who didn’t necessarily want the life that was presented before her, but accepted what she could. It may not be a very feminist notion to “hitch yourself” to the life of another, but that’s what marriage is about, no? Joining together and helping each other follow dreams, compromising along the way. Though the supporting the presidency is a pretty big compromise I should think!

Verdict: American Wife is a wonderfully written story and I definitely recommend it!


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