Book Review: American Wife

It’s not stated explicitly, but this is essentially a fictionalized account of Laura Bush’s life.  Though names and locations have been changed, the similarities are striking: Alice (the Laura Bush character) grows up a quiet and proper only child in a small town, naive to the ways of the world.  After a tragic accident in high school shatters her perspective, she decides it is time to assert her independence.

Just as she is making her way as a woman following her passions, she meets Charlie Blackwell.  The two seem so different: he’s wealthy, she’s middle class; he’s a loud goofball, she’s reserved; he’s a Republican, she’s a Democrat.  But Alice gets swept away by Charlie and soon she is married and helping him build his legacy.

A little slow to start, Sittenfeld’s novel hooked me around the time Charlie hooks Alice.  We watch as Alice becomes a Blackwell, as a waitstaff, country clubs, and trips to the theater become commonplace.  Her life is at odds with the simple one she had imagined – even her political views must be kept under wraps for the greater good.  To her credit, Alice never changes her convictions, but she does learn to keep that piece of herself quiet.  It is just one of the sacrifices she must make as Charlie’s wife, one she feels is worth it.  It’s true that you learn to suck it up when it comes to love.

3 out of 5 stars.

american wife