Author Curtis Sittenfeld, who also wrote Prep: A Novel and The Man of My Dreams: A Novel, has caused quite a stir with her latest novel, American Wife: A Novel. In case you have not heard the buzz, her novel follows the life of Alice Blackwell. Alice grows up in small-town Wisconsin with a life often filled with confusion, some level of privilege, and a tragedy that overshadows the rest of her life. Even without the advance press, the reader realizes very quickly that Alice = Laura. After college, Alice works as a librarian (beginning to catch on?). She meets and marries Charlie Blackwell, who continues to push ahead politically even as his wife begs him to stop. A wicked description of the sex life of the soon-to-be-president was hysterical! Even so, it seems a bit sad that Alice, who is our narrator, seems to only watch as life happens to her. She is often not an active participant. There is a bit of a surprise at the end, when finally she sorts through the difficulties of private and public life to make a statement of her own!
Sittenfeld adds in just enough current events, like 9-11 and the war, to give credence to this delightful work of fiction. The story of Alice’s grandmother sent me straight to Google, but I could not confirm! Alice’s car accident in high school which tragically killed a classmate did actually happen to Laura Bush, but I suppose we will never know if the details are at all similar.
If the reader is seeking an autobiography of the First Lady, this might not be the best place to start. However, the writing is concise and the stories are intriguing. I thought perhaps 500 pages would be tiring, but it was slow only a bit in the middle. Another thing that has me wondering is why people are so upset about the book – if it is fiction, then get over it and enjoy the ride. If the author touches too close to home, so sorry.
I love it!!!!
TITLE: American Wife: A Novel
AUTHOR: Curtis Sittenfeld
COPYRIGHT: September 2, 2008