Wednesday, September 2, 2009

AMERICAN WIFE by Curtis Sittenfeld

Curtis Sittenfeld imagines the life of Laura Bush with obvious fictional embellishments. The novel largely focuses on the conflict between staying true to one's principles and being a supportive spouse. Alice Lindgren is the stand-in for Laura, and Charlie Blackwell represents George W. Bush here, and the setting is Wisconsin instead of Texas. Charlie is a ne'er do-well from a rich and powerful Republican family with a mother whose nickname is Maj (short for Her Majesty). Alice has a middle-class background and leans left of center politically. The couple's political differences don't so much hamper their marriage as they have the potential to undermine Charlie's political aspirations. Plus, Alice has a few skeletons in her closet, and, of course, Charlie's transgressions are sort of swept under the rug after he gets religion. Alice makes the observation that it's much more difficult to be mildly famous, in which case people come out of the woodwork wanting a piece of you, than to be really famous, in which case you're totally insulated from all that. From my perspective, though, I realized that Laura Bush probably has had a much more colorful life than I have given her credit for, even if she didn't do most of the stuff in the book. Since my political leanings are more in line with Alice's than with Charlie's, I enjoyed the book. Your reaction may be different if you lean the other way, because certainly some of Alice's behaviors are very un-First-Lady-like.

No comments: