Book review – American Wife

I just finished reading American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld.  That’s the one that is based on the life of Laura Bush.  It was really good.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it since I am not a big fan of the Bush Administration.  But it really is about her, not him.  In fact he doesn’t even show up until about 100 pages into the book.

I really loved the early parts of the book, about Alice growing up, her family and the early days of relationship with Charlie. 

When she arrives in the White House, however, it fizzles out a bit.  It becomes more difficult to see this as fiction and not some kind of docudrama as Alice (our heroine and narrator) talks about terrorist attacks on the United States and an unpopular war. 

The thing that surprised me the most though, was how sympathetic the George Bush character was.  In the book his name is Charlie. He is portrayed as the family screw-up and not the brightest bulb on the tree.  A guy that nobody thought would ever really accomplish much, and who really only wanted to be president for the adventure of it, not from any real love of politics or call to public service.  Of course he is also selfish, reckless and at times, a really big jerk.  Through it all, you get the sense that Alice truly, genuinely loves him, warts and all.  Charlie seems much more human than W has ever seemed.

Sittenfeld tries hard to answer the question “what was she thinking?”  Meaning, why would a woman like Laura Bush stay with W, or even end up with him in the first place?  There are a lot of interesting ideas about love, loyalty and how little influence one spouse really has over the other.  I was surprised how much I liked this book and how much I liked Alice Lindgren.  I didn’t expect to.

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