American Wife ~ Curtis Sittenfeld
Alice Blackwell was not always Alice Blackwell, First Lady of the United States of America. She was once a small town girl from Wisconsin who lived and loved much like any other girl in the country. After a fairly standard childhood (save a rather life altering incident involving two cars and the love of her life) she found small time success as an elementary school librarian, close to home, never marrying, never reproducing.
That’s how the story went until she met Charlie Blackwell, heir to Blackwell meat-packing fortune and fame. After a whirlwind courtship, their romance sparked what would become the chaos and contentment of the rest of Alice’s adult life. As Charlie abandoned the family business in favor of a different kind of spotlight, Alice followed him from governor to president, dodging literal and figurative bullets on their climb to the very lonely top.
Based very loosely on our most recent Republican president’s wife, American Wife did not, originally, strike me as something that would be my cup of tea. I was not a huge fan of Sittenfeld’s previous best seller, Prep, but for some strange reason, I ended up finding an interest in this. Despite all odds against my favor for this story, I liked it a great deal. Sittenfeld has seriously improved her storytelling skills since the last time I met her on the page. Even though the focus is a couple I have never found much joy in following in real life, the fictitious couple had me hooked for a good portion of the book.
My only complaint is that, toward the end of the book especially, I found Alice (or really, Sittenfeld) to be talking and telling in circles. There was a lot of, what I felt to be, very redundant “reflection” that was felt in other portions of the book and didn’t need to be discussed over and over again in the last two hundred pages. That said, with a bit of a more cutthroat editor, this would have been a spectacular piece of fiction. A fun and perhaps frivolous one, at times, but, altogether a good one.