Book Review: American Wife

I got a great piece of advice once: While traveling, bring along a book written by an author from the area you’re visiting.   Or a book set in the area you’re visiting. I have followed this advice a time or two.  It really does add another dimension to the trip.

However, I did not make it to the bookstore prior to our Jamaica trip. Instead, I snatched one from the resort’s bookshelf of discards. The selection was slim.. and mostly in German. And obviously these are the books people DISCARDED, as in “no reason to keep this one!”. Alas, I ended up with “American Wife”, by Curtis Sittenfield – a female Curtis I believe.

The book was quite lengthy, over 300 pages, and its a fictional memoir by a fictional First Lady.  It was a hardback and missing the dust jacket, so I didn’t get to see the lovely photo until just now when I google’d the book to get an image.  I can’t say the bridal-ish photo really fits the book.

So as I said, its a fictional memoir, and memoirs in general are sort of tedious to me, having lots of details and slow plot development.  This fictional one was no different.  Around about page 150 I realized that parts of the story sounded a little familiar:  A giant election day debacle with razor-thin margins.  9/11.  A hugely unpopular president.  hmmm…  It began to sound a lot like George W and Laura Bush, and Condoleeza Rice, Dick Cheney, and Karl Rove too….  Names changed to protect the innocent of course…

Then I read Laura Bush’s Wikipedia page.  I quickly discovered that 75% of the story in this work of fiction was taken directly from Laura Bush’s real life, both pre- and post-presidency.  OH.

So at that point I had very little patience left for the book.  I did finish it, but I found it to be a bit pointless.  The author basically spends 300 pages answering these questions:

“What if Laura Bush is actually quite liberal and doesn’t agree with any of George Bush’s policies?  How would she handle her internal conflict?”

And while I guess some may find that an interesting endeavor, I prefer my fiction to be fiction.  Why speculate so closely to real events?

What I think I will read someday soon is Laura Bush’s real memoir.  Then I can sort the fact from the fiction a little bit better.


About Mary-Hall

loyal southerner, exceedingly frugal, compulsive DIYer

One response to “Book Review: American Wife”

  1. Momma Daniel says :

    Thank M-H for your review. I actually had a literature instructor state that even biographies are basically “fiction,” because they’re usually slanted towards the author’s point of view. Not sure I agree with that extreme statement (hopefully the events are real), but that raises the question about autobiographies/memoirs too. I suppose everyone “remembers” events wearing some colored pair of glasses (sometimes rosy, sometimes not).

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