Monday, August 15, 2011

Book Review: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld


Title: American Wife
Author: Curtis Sittenfeld
Genre: Fiction
Year: 2009
Rating: 3 of 5 stars


I should start off this book review by saying I’m always skeptical of how I will like a book that is wildly popular. All of my friends on Goodreads have rated American Wife 4 or 5 stars so I thought I would take a chance on the book. It had a good premise and I was intrigued by the fact that it was loosely based on the life of Laura Bush.

The beginning of this book was slow, the middle was fascinating, and the end was confusing. I know the beginning set up to show how Alice Lindgren would face the trials of the rest of her life, but it was very slow-moving for me but I kept reading, hoping it would get better. The middle of the book utterly captivated me. I loved reading about a more grown-up Alice, independent and sassy yet content to lead a quiet life - someone I closely identified with - and her romance with Charlie. The end of the book, about Alice and Charlie’s life as President and First Lady was very confusing for me. There were constant switches from the present day to the past and sometimes I could barely keep track. (It wasn’t until the end when I realized the present day had all taken place on ONE day.) It felt very chaotic for me.

The character development in this story was outstanding. I felt a kinship with Alice, relating to her quiet nature. I love the way Alice was written, as a quiet lady but also someone who has determination and morals. I absolutely loved Charlie and the way he loved his wife. He had major faults, none more apparent than when he was an alcoholic, but there always lied this playfulness and deep love for Alice and his daughter. Ellie stole my heart, along with Alice’s grandmother, and Charlie’s family. All the characters were alive and vibrant, with their own set of issues and problems.

The book gave a good, albeit fictional, glimpse into the life of a politician’s wife. Although the majority of the story focused on Alice’s past and there was only a small chunk devoted to life as First Lady, it was interesting to see how the wife of a controversial President reacts to situations. I’ve never been one to sit on my high horse and bash a President because I truly (maybe naively) believe they are doing the best job they can. They have the hardest job in the world and have to deal with so many situations I cannot even begin to think about. The First Lady is there to support her husband. She may not always agree with what he chooses, but she supports him because that’s what you do in a marriage.

I gave the book 3 stars because Goodread tells me that means I “liked it”. Four stars equals “really liked it” (which I didn’t). And 5 stars means I thought “it was amazing”. (Nope.) It was a good book with a good tone and voice. For me, it was very slow-moving in parts and there were a lot of scenes I thought didn’t exactly need to be there. I would still recommend this book, because I think the writing gives it the edge.

What were your thoughts on this book (if you’ve read it)?

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