Thursday, July 8, 2010

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

In the prologue to this book the author states:

American Wife is a work of fiction loosely inspired by the life of an American first lady. Her husband, his parents, and certain prominent members of his administration are recognizable.”

This immediately caught my attention. As I began reading the book I couldn’t identify the first lady, but she seemed a very sympathetic character. Her life is shaped by a car accident she is in as a high school student that kills another student. She also loves books and becomes a librarian. At this point I’m thinking this must be about Laura Bush, but it is set in Wisconsin.

The character, Alice Lindgren, meets a very handsome, gregarious son of a former governor. He also seems like a good guy, but is from a wealthy privileged family with quite a difficult mother. He doesn’t do much outside the family business until he becomes managing partner of a baseball team. So, this must be about Laura and George Bush. It was hard for me to sort out fiction from non-fiction.

Alice Blackwell is a democrat and remains a democrat throughout even Charlie Blackwell’s presidency. She openly states her pro-choice opinion. When Charlie first runs for president and their finances are investigated, he is given credit for her donations made without his knowledge.

“These were, of course, the modest donations I had made surreptitiously; when our financial records were first vetted and this bit of duplicity emerged, Charlie and Hank were both thrilled. ‘God bless your sneaky liberal ways!’ Charlie exclaimed.”

I didn’t realize until recently that it is slightly unusual to be in a mixed political family. I grew up with a mother who was a democrat and a father who was a republican, and there are obviously examples of couples that work on different sides. It did not seem to be a big deal in our household, except during presidential elections. It never occurred to me, though, that the wife of former President G. W. Bush might be a democrat. To support someone running for president I would think you’d have to support their views and policies. This book is about how Alice Blackwell does support Charlie while not being a republican.

American Wife is worth reading and almost, almost makes me want to read a biography of Laura Bush.

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