Sunday, October 26, 2008

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

It's supposed to be modeled on Laura Bush's life; the story of a woman who accidentally kills a classmate when she's 17, becomes a librarian, and marries into a politically influential family. Her husband, after a DUI becomes a born-again Christian. How awkward.

Alice Lindgren (later Alice Blackwell, after she marries) is not the most interesting character in the book, although at times she is compelling. Nor is it her husband, the president of the United States. Its her grandmother, the lesbian whose lover performs Alice's abortion, her grandmother who reads and offers insight. The grandmother is different than everyone in the family. Unfortunately, she's not in the book very much.

Alice looks up to her grandmother, but she isn't different in the way her grandmother is. She works hard. Blending into a wealthy family is strange for her. The first night meeting them she gets completely drunk and tells her future husband, "Rich people are bizarre!"

The other interesting part is how ridiculous she thinks the quest for legacy is. That is, after all, what the entire Bush administration has been about. She thinks its childish, to worry so much about how people will think of you 100 years from now. What no one points out is that the man most remembered from the 20th century is probably Adolf Hitler. It is easier to be remember for the bad than the good.

She doesn't vote for her husband, either time. She doesn't agree with his positions. But she stands by her man. For about 300 pages she is the long-suffering spouse.

Its strange that this would come out at the end of the Presidency, much like W has just come out. No one listens to Bush anymore. But I did read this with more interest than any of his recent speeches, which is good for Sittenfeld.

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