American Wife: A Novel

By Curtis Sittenfeld
Binding:Paperback
Publisher:Random House Trade Paperbacks, (2/10/2009)
Language:English



Average Rating:
Mildly Unleashable
2.00 out of 5 (5 Clubie's ratings)


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A kind, bookish only child born in the 1940s, Alice Lindgren has no idea that she will one day end up in the White House, married to the president. In her small Wisconsin hometown, she learns the virtues of politeness, but a tragic accident when she is seventeen shatters her identity and changes the trajectory of her life. More than a decade later, when the charismatic son of a powerful Republican family sweeps her off her feet, she is surprised to find herself admitted into a world of privilege. And when her husband unexpectedly becomes governor and then president, she discovers that she is married to a man she both loves and fundamentally disagrees with–and that her private beliefs increasingly run against her public persona. As her husband’s presidency enters its second term, Alice must confront contradictions years in the making and face questions nearly impossible to answer.
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Shan's thoughts on "American Wife: A Novel"
updated on:6/5/2010



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CagneyC's thoughts on "American Wife: A Novel"
updated on:5/16/2010

This book is mildly enjoyable, but is much too long and tells me a lot more than I needed to know; I also found that making the Presidency occurring from 2000-2008 and the references, though few, to the previous President, to be too much for a novel, especially when the name of the President is changed, but little else is. I think the book could have been better if its presidency had been placed in a near future year (like 2020) and if a great deal of the "wild life" scenes had been condensed or omitted.  The placement of the Presidential years make it too obviously political.   Now that Laura Bush's memoir is out, I would rather read it instead of this one.

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Anna Jean's thoughts on "American Wife: A Novel"
updated on:3/18/2010



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laynesgram's thoughts on "American Wife: A Novel"
updated on:5/18/2009



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Dia's thoughts on "American Wife: A Novel"
updated on:4/7/2009



Mildly Unleashable


"American Wife: A Novel"
By Curtis Sittenfeld

Average Rating:
Mildly Unleashable
2.00 out of 5 (5 Clubie's ratings)


The Gentleman
The Gentleman
By Forrest Leo

 
 
 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.
 
 
1. The novel opens and closes with Alice wondering if she’s made terrible mistakes. Do you think she has? If so, what are they?

2. Alice’s grandmother passes down her love of reading. How else is Alice influenced by her grandmother?

3. Why does Andrew remain such an important figure to Alice, even decades later? Do you think they would have ended up together under different circumstances?

4. To what do you attribute Dena’s anger at what she calls Alice’s betrayal? Do you believe her anger is justified?

5. Is Charlie a likable character? Can you understand Alice’s attraction to him?

6. Does Alice compromise herself and her ideals during her marriage, or does she realistically alter her behavior and expectations in order to preserve the most important relationship in her life?

7. Were you surprised by the scene between Alice and Joe at the Princeton reunion? Why do you think it happened?

8. What would you have done in Alice’s situation at the end of the novel? Do you think it was wrong of her to take the stance she did?

9. How do you think Laura Bush would react to this novel if she read it?


Clubie Submitted Discussion Questions
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly
Sittenfeld tracks, in her uneven third novel, the life of bookish, naïve Alice Lindgren and the trajectory that lands her in the White House as first lady. Charlie Blackwell, her boyishly charming rake of a husband, whose background of Ivy League privilege, penchant for booze and partying, contempt for the news and habit of making flubs when speaking off the cuff, bears more than a passing resemblance to the current president (though the Blackwells hail from Wisconsin, not Texas). Sittenfeld shines early in her portrayal of Alice's coming-of-age in Riley, Wis., living with her parents and her mildly eccentric grandmother. A car accident in her teens results in the death of her first crush, which haunts Alice even as she later falls for Charlie and becomes overwhelmed by his family's private summer compound and exclusive country club membership. Once the author leaves the realm of pure fiction, however, and has the first couple deal with his being ostracized as a president who favors an increasingly unpopular war, the book quickly loses its panache and sputters to a weak conclusion that doesn't live up to the fine storytelling that precedes it. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine
While critics couldn’t say for sure whether or not Sittenfeld captures the exact thoughts of Laura Bush, they did agree that she creates a realistic and highly sympathetic portrayal of the (soon-to-be former) First Lady. (The author supposedly based the novel on Ann Gerhart’s 2004 biography, The Perfect Wife: The Life and Choices of Laura Bush.) Sittenfeld asks provoking questions about marriage, loyalty, and responsibility. But many reviewers couldn’t fundamentally understand why the very decent Alice had supported her husband despite her doubts about his capabilities; Sittenfeld’s pat, unsatisfactory answer is that Alice leads a life “in opposition.” That, combined with the author’s obvious contempt for Charlie, brought the reviews down a notch. Still, there’s nothing as titillating as a look, albeit fictional, inside the White House—especially during an election year.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review
“A well-researched book that imagines what lies behind that placid façade of the first lady…Ms. Sittenfeld was not out to sensationalize but to sympathize.
Maureen Dowd, The New York Times

“Brilliant…[A] triumph…Curtis Sittenfeld has provided a plausible secret history of an American embarrassment – and a grand entertainment.”
Joe Klein, Time Magazine

“A smart and sophisticated portrait of a high-profile political wife…Sittenfeld has an astonishing gift for creating characters that take up residence in readers’ heads.”
Connie Schultz,Washington Post Book World

“Sittenfeld boldly imagines the inner life of a first lady…an intimate and daring story…American Wife is a vicarious experience, an up-close portrait of the interior life of a very complicated woman…cinematic.”
–USA Today

“The novel, Sittenfeld’s most fully realized yet, artfully evokes the painful reverberations of the past.”
–New Yorker

“Compelling...enormously sympathetic...Sittenfeld’s remarkable gifts as a storyteller draw you back into the fictional world of Alice Blackwell. She writes in the sharp, realistic tradition of Philip Roth and Richard Ford–clear, unpretentious prose; metaphors so spot-on you barely notice them. Sittenfeld may have lifted the set pieces from a real woman’s life, but in the process she has created a wise and insightful character who is entirely her own.”
–Time Out New York

“Ambitious…Sittenfeld installs herself deep within the psyche of the tight-lipped wife of the president and emerges with an evenhanded, compassionate look at her mind and heart…powerfully intimate. Grade: A”
–Washington Post

“A masterful highbrow-lowbrow mash-up that satisfies as ass-kicking literary fiction
and juicy gossip simultaneously.”
–Radar

“With American Wife, Curtis Sittenfeld has deftly crossed an extraordinarily high wire…I read American Wife in just two or three delicious sittings, struck by the granular clarity of the author’s descriptions and the down-to-earth believability of the story, bewitched by the charming, frustrating woman at the center of it: Laura Bush.”
— Ana Marie Cox, The New York Observer

“Curtis Sittenfeld is one of our best contemporary chroniclers of class and caste… Sittenfeld imagines this couple so deliciously and so plausibly… Curtis Sittenfeld invents a deep, messy, sympathetic life for a public person whose surface is all we'll ever know.”
— St Petersburg Times

“Immensely readable. It's a nuanced portrait of a woman in a singularly fascinating position.”
— Cleveland Plain Dealer

“A broad, deep and utterly convincing account…a portrait of a woman and a marriage that also brings the reader as close to the probable essence of the outgoing president as any other novelist, or any biographer, is likely to get.”
— Portland Oregonian

“We love Sittenfeld. We love her wry, razor-sharp observations. We love her funny, straightforward honesty…[American Wife] is an empathetic, fascinating, and gorgeously written story about a 30-year marriage. We devoured it in one night.”
— Boston Magazine

“Endearing and poignant, humorous and enlightening, American Wife is a must-read for Sittenfeld fans--and a good first read for would-be converts.”
— Fredericksburg Freelance Star

“An entertaining, racy tale that's inspired more than a bit by the life of our current president's wife, Laura Bush…A well-told tale that will leave many readers wondering: How much of Sittenfeld's story might be closer to fact than fiction?”
— St Louis Post Dispatch

“The scope and detail of American Wife are reminiscent of Richard Russo. Like Russo, she creates characters from the ground up, ancestry, neighborhood, culture and all.”
–LA Times

American Wife  promises to be another sensation.”
- Dayton Daily News

American Wife is a sparkling, sprawling novel…A ridiculously gifted writer…Sittenfeld has harnessed her talents perfectly in American Wife, producing an exhilirating epic infused with humor, pain, and hope.”
–BookPage

“Widely anticipated and vastly entertaining… An intelligent, well-crafted, psychologically astute novel”
–New York Sun

“Highly engaging…fascinating depth.”
— Seattle Times

“A well-researched, juicy roman a clef about the current first lady.”
— Boston Globe

“Ambitious…entertaining…a parable of America in the years of the second Bush presidency.”
Joyce Carol Oates, cover of The New York Times Book Review

“With her first line - “Have I made terrible mistakes?” - Alice Blackwell (a fictional First Lady modeled after Laura Bush) reels us into a gripping epic of public and private lives. A gem.”
–Good Housekeeping

“This searing page-turner will make you wonder what unspoken promises lie behind the victory smiles of any power couple.”
- Redbook

“What is Laura Bush thinking? That’s the question Sittenfeld ponders in her novel,
loosely based on the life of our First Lady…Just as she did in Prep, Sittenfeld masterfully deflates
the middle-class fairy tale — rose gardens and all.”
–Marie Claire

“Bold…conveys in convincing, thoroughly riveting detail a life far more complicated than it appears on the surface…What she does here, in prose as winning as it is confident, is to craft out of the first-person narration a compelling, very human voice, one full of kindness and decency. And, as if making the Bush-like couple entirely sympathetic is not enough of a feat in itself, she also provides many rich insights into the emotional ebb and flow of a long-term marriage.”
–Booklist, Upfront and Starred review

“Terrific . . . an intelligent, bighearted novel about a controversial political dynasty.”
–Entertainment Weekly

“Remarkable . . . American Wife is about the long history of a marriage, and . . . the way we make decisions when we’re young that have consequences we couldn’t have anticipated. . . . Sittenfeld’s most ambitious and impressive work to date.”
Chicago Tribune

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About the Author
Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of The Man of My Dreams and Prep, which was chosen by The New York Times as one of the Ten Best Books of 2005. Her nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Salon, Allure, Glamour, and on public radio’s This American Life. Her books are being translated into twenty-five languages. www.curtissittenfeld.com



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