Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Read this: American Wife

Curtis Sittenfeld's first book, Prep, threw my high school insecurities at me in such poignant, right-on language that I wanted to simultaneously jump for joy and jump out of the nearest window.

A good friend gave me her third book, American Wife, as a wedding present and it sucked me in so much that I had to tear myself away from it ON MY HONEYMOON. (Yes, I was reading a book with that cover on my honeymoon. Yes, I felt silly).

A highly fictionalized account of former First Lady Laura Bush's life, the book starts with her childhood and ends during the first term of her husband's presidency. The writing is impeccable and the story is fascinating; a peek into what it might be like to fall in love with and marry someone whose political views and family background are widely divergent from yours and then have that person unexpectedly gain the power to exert these views on an entire nation while you are expected to sit by as as the "wife." I wouldn't say that the book is about marriage, or even about American marriage, but it is a really well done and creative story that explores (fictionally!) a really famous woman's life before and after a marriage that grew to define her existence.

I gotta tell you, I had never thought much about Laura Bush before reading this book, but if I did think about her I am sure my thinking ran along the lines of "How could you be married to him?"* Which of course is totally unfair and demeaning and not about Laura Bush at all. What is great about this book is it isn't just "Here is a story of what it might be like to be married to a famous President." This book is about Alice Lindgren, a woman from the Midwest who is smart and independent, who loves to read and is interesting for a myriad of reasons that have nothing to do with who she chose to marry. It is also about how who she loves and marries has impacts on her life, but the person of Alice Lindgren never gets lost, and it is her that I kept wanting to hear more about.

Seriously. So good. I'm talking getting-past-grossness-of fake GWB-sex-scenes good. I think I liked the first part of the book before she meets fake-GWB better, but the whole thing is a very satisfying page-turner of a read.

Go read it! You can thank me later.

*Last year a friend of mine told me that when GWB met Laura and asked her what she did, she responded: "I smoke, and I read." So. Rad.

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