American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld
Paperback: 568 pages
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; First Printing edition (February 10, 2009)
Reading Sara Review: 7/10
Reading Sara Review: Ok, I know I am super late to the party on this book. It has been on my radar, but I just hadn’t had a good opportunity to read it. I was pushed over the edge to pick it up based on one of those “40 books you should read before you are 40” lists (luckily, I am a few years away from 40…but still wanted to dive in!).
American Wife deservedly was on that list, and I am glad that I finally read it. It wasn’t the best book I have read in my lifetime or even in the past couple of months, but I enjoyed it. It was a quick book (would make an excellent beach vacation read), with an easy story line to dive into and become invested with.
If you are unaware, American Wife is loosely based on Laura Bush’s story. It is certainly fictionalized, and has some significant discrepancies – it is based in Wisconsin, not Texas – but a lot of what Sittenfeld wrote was from Laura’s history. Whether it was based on the former First Lady or not, it would still be an excellent story – a human story that gives empathy to the characters and is interesting and told in a smart way.
But, because it is based on a former First Lady, the empathy goes deeper. I certainly felt for her in the times that she struggled with her marriage, with the choices that her husband was making for the country, with her decisions as a woman. This book provided me with more compassion for Mrs. Bush and her family. It is such a good reminder that we don’t know these people who live in the spotlight, we make assumptions about them, their lives and their choices – but especially for politicians, they walk a fine line. And this is a woman who loved her husband, even if she disagreed with his politics from the beginning. It gives more context to the complications of love and politics.
My primary problem with the book was the ending. I felt like the beginning was strong, had great detail and was extremely interesting. But it seemed to just start skimming the end of their lives – when things were getting interesting with her husband as Governor and then President. I wished that more of that storyline was explored rather than jumping so much and ending rather abruptly. It did not ruin the book for me, but I felt like it could have gone deeper.