American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld: A Review
*Warning: this review contains some minor spoilers of general themes.*
This is not the type of book I would ordinarily read. I have little interest in politics, much less a work of fiction based on the former first lady, Laura Bush. However, a fellow blogger raved about American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. on her blog, so I decided to check it out for myself.
Straight off, this book made me a little uncomfortable. It can be very explicit (in my opinion) for a story which supposedly has a basis in reality. I'm not sure how I would feel if I was Laura Bush -- I'm a little mortified for her! That said, I really enjoyed the first two sections of the story, which describe main character Alice's youth, early adulthood, and her courtship by and marriage to Charlie. The characters engaged me, and I enjoyed Alice's perspective and the rich detail with which the settings, action, and relationships are revealed.
Unfortunately, the last section of the book, detailing the Blackwells' two-term stint in the White House, fizzled for me big time. In between engaging pieces of action and forward plot motion, Alice monologues at great length about similar (and sometimes identical) topics. After 400+ pages, I'm pretty familiar with what she's thinking and don't need the be flat-out told. Plus, the book ends on a rather dour note, with Alice wondering if she hasn't betrayed her husband after all.
This left me thinking -- what exactly is the "moral" of the story (for lack of a better term -- perhaps "What is the point?" is a more accurate question) that author Sittenfeld is trying to communicate? That Alice regrets her entire life and marriage? That she sold out? I'm not sure, and that fact left me with a sour taste in my mouth despite the very well-written first 75% of this novel.
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