Book Review: “American Wife” by Curtis Sittenfeld

I just finished an outstanding book, a surprise favorite, and had to give you my two cents.

American Wife

Absolutely fascinating, although I have to wonder how Sittenfeld got away with this! The main character is clearly Laura Bush, and yet the story is mostly fictional — Sittenfeld cleverly took real people and fictionalized the events that made them THEM. Laura’s character, Alice Blackwell, is at times irritatingly passive, astoundingly wise, deeply compassionate, and tolerant to a fault. George’s character, Charlie Blackwell, is at times exceedingly fun, terribly cruel, endearingly boyish, and completely self-centered. In short, they are both HUMAN and come across as such, rather than the 2-D figureheads with which we are so regular presented. I highly recommend this as both a book and way to think about a variety of issues, including celebrities as more complicated and more like us than we ever care to imagine, the compromises and give-and-take that make up a marriage, and the way that events form our personalities and dictate the choices we make further on down the road.

As a side note — reading this book led to a few conversations between me and Aussie about the legality of such a book. It’s one thing to publish a tell-all about a real person, but taking a real person and completely fictionalizing their life with only the thinnest veil to obscure their real identity? Aussie thought it was skeazy, and I thought it completely brilliant and devious — at times I felt like I was in on a sneaky secret, even though, obviously, it isn’t. What a great feeling for a piece of fiction to instill in its readers!

So, no matter how you feel about the Bushes (even though it’s not technically about them), go out and read it. Supporter or detractor, liberal or conservative, it will give you another way to look at how we view others.

(As a side note, let me illuminate you — the author is a woman. How is it that a woman comes to be named Curtis?!?)

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