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American Wife

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  47,906 ratings  ·  6,037 reviews
In the year 2000, in the closest election in American history, Alice Blackwell's husband becomes president of the United States. Their time in the White House proves to be heady, tumultuous, and controversial.

But it is Alice's own story - that of a kind, bookish, only child born in the 1940s Midwest who comes to inhabit a life of dizzyin
Published (first published September 2nd 2008)
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Average rating 3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  47,906 ratings  ·  6,037 reviews

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Dec 24, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 14, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-clubs

Boy did my opinions about this book change as I went along. At first I found it more of a pulpy beach read. As it went along, it got into some deeper issues and I found myself thinking about a lot of the issues that Sittenfeld raised. I can appreciate the fate of a woman who would prefer her husband not running for a political office being forced to go along. The thoughts and discussions about how much to do, what to support, etc. rang very true. As did Charlie’s comments about having to be cons
Jul 08, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 i
Alison MacAdam
Jul 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 (in the White House and before and after) aren’t like ours. She empathetically details the burdens and is
I will have to go for two stars on this one. This 'biographical fictional' tale of Laura Bush started out five stars, but finally fell flat in the last third of the book. I struggled to finish.

I also feel uncomfortable with the repulsive, salacious details provided, although the author claimed that 95% of the book is fiction.

Huh?!...W.w.w.w.what?!... C.c.c.c.come again?!

Building a story around a president of the USA and his wife, surely demands some respect for privacy, truth, fac
Aug 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 07, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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 (ye
The life of former First Lady Laura Bush might not sound like promising material, but this fictional autobiography delights. When shy librarian Alice falls for Charlie, heir of the Blackwell political dynasty, private tragedies from her past − and her disagreement with her husband’s policies − threaten to emerge. It’s delicious fun to spot Bush family and administration members in this roman à clef. The well-drawn characters defy caricatures of a conniving presidential idiot and his meek, silent wife ...more
Dec 29, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Kate Merriman
Jul 11, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kate by: ARC program
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 29, 2017 added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
Got about 20% into the book before I realized I'd been tricked into reading a fictionalized biography of Laura Bush's life. Hard pass on the George W. Bush smut, dude. God damn book club books...
Jul 14, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sheryl Sorrentino
American Wife is the best thing I have read in a very long time. I picked this book up from my local library in a moment of desperation when I had nothing else to read. I was about to pass on it when two of my “holds” came in, but I am so glad I cracked the front cover, because I was immediately and hopelessly hooked.

American Wife offers an intimate fictional peek into the marriage of George W. and Laura Bush. Full disclosure: I am in the camp that considers George W. Bush to be among the worst preside
Book Concierge
Book on CD performed by Kimberly Farr

From the book jacket On what might have been 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.”

My reactions
I was expecting a somewhat light look at a fictional first lady. What I got was every so much more – a nuanced, complex portrait of a woman who did not seek but/>My/>From
Feb 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
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
Sep 14, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters
I enjoyed "American Wife".

Curtis Sittenfeld is a wonderful writer. I liked her first book "Prep" years back, too.

When is this great author going to write another book??
Feb 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
To say that I'm not a GWB (and Laura) fan is an understatement, so I wasn't sure how I would feel about this book. I've never been one who could admire Laura while disliking her husband, and for many of the same reasons covered in the book. And after having read AMERICAN WIFE, if one can assume it has any accuracy as to Mrs. Bush, I still don't know that I LIKE her or admire her, but I found her story incredibly interesting. The novel itself is well-written, and quite a page turner. I'm anxious ...more
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 person’s mundane d ...more
Jun 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
According to a brief interview at the end of the book, the author read some material about Laura Bush and got fascinated about why a seemingly compassionate and intelligent woman would marry someone like George W. This book with the characters of Alice and Charlie was her fictional response to that question, and like most good fiction, it probably has more truth to it than any non-fiction book written.

Alice is a woman haunted by a tragic accident and who doesn't quite understand her
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 too ...more
Sep 15, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really 3.5 stars

It took a while to appreciate what this book accomplished. (And to read it. It’s looong.) I once read something about how lonely an ex-president’s life is. The only people who can relate are other ex-presidents. Being briefed daily about foreign affairs even after office is a really strange way to live in civilian life.

But what is it truly like to be a First Lady? I think the answer to that differs quite a bit depending upon the woman. There have been some who have e
Mar 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of the new novel Eligible, a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice (due out April 2016) as well as the bestselling novels Sisterland, American Wife, Prep, and The Man of My Dreams, which have been translated into twenty-five languages. Curtis's writing has appeared in many publications, including The Atlantic, The New York Times, Vanity Fair,Time, Slate, Glamour, and on public radio's This American Life. A graduate of Stanford University and the IFair,, ...more
“We have to make mistakes, it's how we learn compassion for others.” 64 likes
“To remain alone did not seem to me a terrible fate, no worse than being falsely joined to another person.” 51 likes
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