Wednesday, December 31, 2008

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Okay - I've got a bit behind on my book reviews again with the holidays. I'm going to do some quick summaries to catch myself back up over the next couple of days!

I was frankly surprised by how much I liked American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. I was intrigued by the premise of a book roughly based on the life of Laura Bush, but I was also turned off by the thought of an "unauthorized biography" take on her life. I was therefore surprised that the novel had well rounded and intriguing characters. I thought Alice Lindgren was a wonderful character. A small town girl that is involved in a tragic accident, Alice spends years trying to atone for one night's mistake. She becomes a "spinster" librarian and meets Charlie Blackwell at a backyard BBQ. Charlie is the quirky son of a well known Republican family. Charlie and Alice have a great connection and quickly get married. The book skips ahead ten years to a troubled time in their marriage and then skips ahead twenty more years to Charlie becoming president.

It's no secret that I have no love for George Bush and have actually greatly disliked him from day 1. It surprised me then that I really liked Charlie Blackwell. He was a fun loving man who has a deep and passionate love for his wife. He is able to realize his life is heading in a direction that is not good for himself and his family and he is able to turn it around. The only thing I didn't like was the skip of twenty years at the end to Charlie being President. I wanted more story on the improbable path Charlie took to being president. Charlie is a complex individual, but the last portion of the book tried to simplify him.

The secondary characters such as Alice's Grandma were also fantastically written. I also loved the Wisconsin setting. Their vacation spot in Door County would literaly be about half an hour north of me - which was cool to think about. This brings about a good point - why are so many books, movies, and shows based in Wisconsin. When an author picks a midwest state, why is it usually Wisconsin? I love my adopted state, but am originally from Michigan and wonder why my home state does not get the love that Wisconsin seems to!

Overall, I thought this was a fantastic book and one of my best reads of the year. I thought the first 3/4 of the book were great, but the last 1/4 when Charlie was president was disappointing. Mostly because of the great time jump and how it seemed to skim the surface of Charlie and Alice rather than really go in depth. I highly recommend this book.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this book, but I agree with your assessment of the ending. The final section felt more like a soapbox than a novel to me. You can see my review here if you’re interested.