American Wife
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American Wife

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  31,552 ratings  ·  4,820 reviews
On what might become one of the most significant days in her husband’s presidency, Alice Blackwell considers the strange and unlikely path that has led her to the White House–and the repercussions of a life lived, as she puts it, “almost in opposition to itself.”

A kind, bookish only child born in the 1940s, Alice learned the virtues of politeness early on from her stolid p...more
Hardcover, 555 pages
Published September 2nd 2008 by Random House
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Community Reviews

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Chicklit
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
TK
As I said in my comments when I posted this book to my "Currently Reading" list, I've "never read Curtis before but an semi-obsessed with novels about First Ladies and First Daughters. Plus, I love wedding gowns."

That's right, I was suckered in by the wedding gown! But come on -- it's a luscious dress, like a mound of whipped cream sprinkled with sugar. And truly, when I had a chance to read the ARE, I couldn't say no, since I have heard only good things about Curtis's stuff.

There must be someth...more
Alison MacAdam
This book is a fabulous read -- and as far as I can gather, inspired by a sentiment I can understand well: Fascination with Laura Bush. I certainly don't share enough fascination to have written a novel about her, but even from my own experience of meeting her VERY briefly, she is incredibly NICE. So the premise grabbed my attention.

In the novel, this Laura-esque character is a bit of a contradiction -- a true free thinker and yet an obedient wife and first lady. At times it is hard to square, b...more
Lucy
Rarely am I so repulsed by a book while still able to honestly say that it wasn't completely awful. I can't ignore the fact that Curtis Sittenfeld (a woman by the way. I didn't look at the picture in the book jacket and had a male author writing this in my head for well over half the book) creates one of the most interesting and well-developed characters, Alice Blackwell, for a novel that I have read in a while. The creepy part of that is she modeled Alice after Laura Bush, flagrantly so, and I'...more
Lisa
I loved Curtis Sittenfeld's debut novel, Prep. And while I wasn't thrilled when I discovered that the main character of this book was based upon Laura Bush, I remembered how brilliantly Ms. Sittenfeld crafted the coming of age story of her young protagonist in Prep. I suspected that her treatment of Laura Bush masquerading as Alice Lindgren Blackwell would be equally engaging. For the greater part of the book, I was not disappointed. An American Wife proved to be a refreshingly modern rendition...more
Jeanne
Sep 25, 2008 Jeanne rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jeanne by: Booklist
The first 439 pages of this novel merit 5 stars. Alas! When our American wife makes it to the White House, the story falls flat on its face.

Anyway, this is the engrossing (and somewhat trashy) tale of Alice Lindgren Blackwell, future first lady. Growing up in a small Wisconsin town, Alice has a good life. She is an only child who lives with her mother, father, and grandmother. Her father has a job at the bank, her mother is the perfect housewife, and her grandmother is an eccentric intellectual....more
Lisa
Wow. One of the best books I've read this year.
Just forget what you might have heard about this book being a mirror of the life of Laura Bush (it is, but ...), it's really about the life of one woman, and purely on its own merits as a novel, it’s moving, thoughtful and wonderfully wrought.
The author gives Alice (and Charlie) complexity, hopes and fears — and lives, even if their lives aren’t like ours. She empathetically details the burdens and isolation of being famous, the doubts and regrets...more
Kate Merriman
Aug 18, 2008 Kate Merriman rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kate by: ARC program
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kecia
This book got four stars from me because I agree with most of the reviews (not here; "out there"): The first three sections (about 3/4 of the book) were good and interesting but the fourth section just didn't work as well. It was like being brought up short: "Oh yeah...she's the First Lady. Damn."

Of course it's the parallel to that other First Lady that has people reading this book but it's in the first three sections that Sittenfeld creates this interesting and complex character (yeah, she's al...more
Candy
You never know what goes on behind closed doors. And after reading American Wife, we still don’t know what goes on behind closed doors, but it sure is riveting to read what might. When the subject is married to a good-time Charlie (Charlie Blackwell in this case) from a prominent political family, who purchased a Major League baseball team, served as a Republican governor, then won a contested election to become a two-term President . . . well, it all sounds very familiar. The mix of truth and f...more
Liz
Sep 30, 2008 Liz rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Liz by: slate book club
Shelves: novels, rich-folks, female
I'm surprised, but so far I *really* like this. The main character is very compelling and I love the grandmother. More soon....

9/30: The first chapters are definitely the best, and my biggest problem with this novel is all the TELLING instead of SHOWING. There was so much rumination, explanation, summary, etc. that it started driving me crazy, and the last 150 pages were tough to get through. It needed more scenes, action, dialogue.

Also, how did the fairly interesting young Alice become this c...more
Jenny
This is one of the most thought-provoking and absorbing books I have read in a while. (I'm pretty sure I thought about it in my sleep.) First, there's the fact that it's loosely based on the life of Laura Bush; second, there's the fact that Curtis Sittenfeld has a staggering talent for making characters absolutely real (even when they aren't real already; see PREP).

Sittenfeld gives so much insight into Alice Blackwell, and when you, as the reader, understand in such a close and detailed way wha...more
Michael
A character-driven story about Alice Blackwell, a small town girl who meets and falls in love with a rising Republican hot-shot from her home state of Wisconsin. The strength of this story comes from the first-person narration by Alice and the way the story is told. Each of the four sections of the story are defined by a place Alice lives and she tells the story of not only what's going on in her life at the time, but fills in certain details to help clue you in on the overall pattern of her lif...more
Ami
Three stars is really more of an average. Four stars for the first half, and two for the last half.

However, when reading the first chunk of the book, I was excited, engaged, engrossed, and believed that Sittenfeld had pulled off something epic here, a truly staggering undertaking.

I'm interested to see what the reviews will have to say. God knows there have been books with less strong beginnings and worse endings lauded as excellent. (Indecision, I'm lookin' at you!) I have to say, based on the...more
Jennifer
Nov 02, 2008 Jennifer rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jennifer by: New York Times
Shelves: fiction
This thinly veiled fictional account of Laura Bush was absolutely fantastic. I'm sure the First Lady will be embarrassed by certain juicy, fabricated events, but all in all, I found this to be a love letter to her from the author, who claims to be a huge Laura Bush groupie. Sittenfeld is a true master of character development and this is some of the best fiction I've read in awhile--I couldn't put it down and stayed up way too late reading it.
Travis
wow, my foray into new fiction turned ugly with the first of many sex scenes between a Laura Bush a clef and a George W. Bush a clef. Then it turned uglier with each further insight into GW's pretend sex life. Such as "I held his penis. It had a nice weight" or somehting like that. You have to be a sick fuck to want to think about GWs penis.

Plus this is one of those books whose back covers calls it "brave" and that pisses me off. Usually it means it's some milquetoast bullshit that tries to use...more
Sara
Well,
This book was SUCH a disappointment. I loved Prep. I thought Sittenfeld was a master of nuance and capturing the excruciating sensitivity to every social nuance that is being a high school student. However, this book's main character, based on Laura Bush, is extremely uninteresting. I just never liked being inside her head, but I stubbornly kept reading. Also, the sex scenes were difficult to read because I kept having to imagine George W and Laura, and it was just too much for me. And all...more
KatieMc
Well fuck me in a dog suit, this book turned out to be a fictionalized (view spoiler) memoir. In all likelihood I probably wouldn't have read it had I done the smallest bit of research (aka reading a few reviews). As it turns out, it was a pretty good book, at least the first three quarters. Early on, I noticed some similarities between Alice Blackwell and (view spoiler), but it took me nearly about half the book to realize that these were mo...more
Jill
Much like the protagonists of her novels American Wife and Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld, and her writing, are interesting, though interesting in a very quiet way. On the surface her work is unassuming: a charming combination of chick-lit and literary fiction. But after finishing American Wife I believe her work is more complicated than it initially appears. Sittenfeld doesn’t commit to telling the most thrilling story but she does commit to respectfully recording the mundane events of a mundane perso...more
Erin
I LOVED this book. Sittenfeld, a self-described “staunch liberal,” read a biography on Laura Bush and found her to be absolutely fascinating and much more complex than most people realize. So in trying to understand her better, she wrote a fictional retelling of her life, and I thought she just nailed it on the head. I felt not only like i was walking in Laura Bush's shoes, but living in her skin. Told in first person, the story of Alice Lindgren Blackwell intimately follows the life of Laura Bu...more
Mary
My main problem with this book was that it was REALLY long. Usually that is the sort of comment that you associate with a book that is boring and not worth continuing. That was not the case with American Wife, which I was simultaneously plodding through and enjoying for pretty much the entire months of February and March. Perhaps for a milestone-marker like me, not having chapters was a major downfall of this book. Though in retrospect, my experience of the book is not unlike the character of Al...more
King Rat
Reprinted from this review at my blog. Curtis Sittenfeld's new book American Wife has certainly received a lot of buzz, and it's not even officially out until 2 September. It doesn't take a genius to see why. It's a thinly disguised ripped from the headlines take on the life of Laura Bush. Some things have been changed: the Bushes are the Blackwells, the family is from Wisconsin, the elder Blackwell never made it to the White House as President, and more. But all the major events in Laura Bush's...more
Miriam
I only read through about page 400 of this book and I don't anticipate finishing it. I agree with the majority of other reviewers that the first part is much stronger than, well, than the portion of the rest of the book that I got through at least. I thought the opening scene was nearly perfect and there were other interesting descriptions or plot developments too, but I found the narrator as an adult unbearable. I'm pretty sure that we're supposed to find her interesting and intelligent and lik...more
Melanie
I always think I should like Curtis Sittenfeld, and then I'm always disappointed. The first 150 pages - the part set at Alice's childhood home - were true to form (really, I think Sittenfeld should avoid retrospective narratives of adolescence - they're kind of painful, and this one wasn't an exception, filled as it was with horribly annoying, all-knowing reminiscences and moralizing tag lines to chapters), as were the final 100 or so set at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. (too politically conscious with...more
Laura
I absolutely loved this book up until the very, very end (as in, the last page or two) when I felt it got totally preachy and not in a way I tend to agree with. However, that being said, this book was amazing. I completely intend to re-read this book as soon as I can (it's way too long for me to re-read on a whim), and before I do, I plan on reading some of the references noted by the author. I'm very interested to read how the characters interact with Alice and Charlie prior to becoming famous,...more
Kit
My aunt started this, couldn't really deal with the sex scenes, and gave it to my mother. My mother started this, couldn't really deal with the sex scenes, and gave it to me.

So far? I'm okay with the sex scenes. ;-)

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I really enjoyed this. The ending's not very satisfying, but it can't be, given the book's conceit (we're supposed to have Laura Bush in mind the whole time), so I'm okay with that. Well written. Nice small, human moments that offered me an immediate connection (e.g. Alice, the...more
Ray
Jan 08, 2009 Ray rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: buy
I truly enjoyed reading this book and did so voraciously. Like many others who read it, I'd agree that the first third was much stronger than the other two, with the last particularly weak.

It's no spoiler though to say that this book is inspired by Laura Bush's life and is, at least initially, what held me in its thrall. However, what emerged more than anything were many of the same themes that Sittenfeld worked over in "Prep." And just as I felt when I reached the end of this book, this one lea...more
Alison
Mar 08, 2009 Alison rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: women, people in the public eye, the curious
I wish I'd read American Wife with a pencil. There were so many good parts that I wanted to mark as I was reading, but I didn't want to break the rhythm of the book long enough to get up and search for one. The sign of a good book, I guess.

One of my favorite passages is a conversation, a fight, really between Alice and her husband. He's telling her that she's not responsible for him and she's very diplomatically, as is characteristic of this woman, responding that she doesn't want to be responsi...more
Nicola
When I read Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep (which I adored), I hoped she would become one of my favourite authors. After reading her lacklustre second novel, The Man Of My Dreams, I was sorely disappointed. However, with American Wife, I was able to come to terms with the fact that Sittenfeld seems intent on writing the same novel over and over again: timid, good-girl type uncovers pain and heartache, but also joy and pathos, on the path of growing up. Sittenfeld is probably not destined to be one of...more
Joanna
As in Prep, Sittenfeld's insightful first novel, the narrator of American Wife is a highly analytical outsider. This time however, she is a fictionalized Laura Bush. Yes, this is sort of cheesy. But it is also amazing. Her childhood and adolescence and love affair with "Charlie," the thinly veiled George Bush all feel plausible. The last section, trying to explain how a former librarian with Democratic leanings who had lived in Madison of all places, could rationalize her marriage to such an awf...more
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Mansfield Public ...: The"American Wife" review by Jessica Neumuth 1 1 Aug 09, 2014 01:01PM  
American Wife is outrageous (not in a good way) 17 218 Aug 19, 2013 09:03AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Please Add Editor on Book 5 24 May 09, 2013 10:13PM  
Alice's love for Charlie 2 23 Apr 07, 2013 09:10AM  
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Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of the bestselling novels American Wife, Prep, and The Man of My Dreams, which are being translated into twenty-five languages. Prep also was chosen as one of the Ten Best Books of 2005 by The New York Times, nominated for the UK's Orange Prize, and optioned by Paramount Pictures. Curtis won the Seventeen magazine fiction writing contest in 1992, at age sixteen, and...more
More about Curtis Sittenfeld...
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“To remain alone did not seem to me a terrible fate, no worse than being falsely joined to another person.” 50 likes
“We have to make mistakes, it's how we learn compassion for others.” 42 likes
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