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American Wife: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Curtis Sittenfeld
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (402 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $11.06
You Save: $3.94 (26%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

On what might become one of the most significant days in her husband’s presidency, Alice Blackwell considers the strange and unlikely path that has led her to the White House–and the repercussions of a life lived, as she puts it, “almost in opposition to itself.”

A kind, bookish only child born in the 1940s, Alice learned the virtues of politeness early on from her stolid parents and small Wisconsin hometown. But a tragic accident when she was seventeen shattered her identity and made her understand the fragility of life and the tenuousness of luck. So more than a decade later, when she met boisterous, charismatic Charlie Blackwell, she hardly gave him a second look: She was serious and thoughtful, and he would rather crack a joke than offer a real insight; he was the wealthy son of a bastion family of the Republican party, and she was a school librarian and registered Democrat. Comfortable in her quiet and unassuming life, she felt inured to his charms. And then, much to her surprise, Alice fell for Charlie.

As Alice learns to make her way amid the clannish energy and smug confidence of the Blackwell family, navigating the strange rituals of their country club and summer estate, she remains uneasy with her newfound good fortune. And when Charlie eventually becomes President, Alice is thrust into a position she did not seek–one of power and influence, privilege and responsibility. As Charlie’s tumultuous and controversial second term in the White House wears on, Alice must face contradictions years in the making: How can she both love and fundamentally disagree with her husband? How complicit has she been in the trajectory of her own life? What should she do when her private beliefs run against her public persona?

In Alice Blackwell, New York Times bestselling author Curtis Sittenfeld has created her most dynamic and complex heroine yet. American Wife is a gorgeously written novel that weaves class, wealth, race, and the exigencies of fate into a brilliant tapestry–a novel in which the unexpected becomes inevitable, and the pleasures and pain of intimacy and love are laid bare.

BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Curtis Sittenfeld's Sisterland.

Praise for American Wife

“Curtis Sittenfeld is an amazing writer, and American Wife is a brave and moving novel about the intersection of private and public life in America. Ambitious and humble at the same time, Sittenfeld refuses to trivialize or simplify people, whether real or imagined.”
–Richard Russo

“What a remarkable (and brave) thing: a compassionate, illuminating, and beautifully rendered portrait of a fictional Republican first lady with a life and husband very much like our actual Republican first lady’s. Curtis Sittenfeld has written a novel as impressive as it is improbable.”
–Kurt Andersen

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.

From The New Yorker

In her third novel, Sittenfeld offers a thinly veiled account (Wisconsin, not Texas) of the life of Laura Bush, in the story of Alice Lindgren, who marries Charlie Blackwell, the ne'er-do-well son of a political dynasty who becomes President. The early chapters, in which Sittenfeld depicts an innocent childhood and adolescence disrupted by tragedy, are the most compelling. As the book progresses to more recent and familiar events, she has difficulty enlivening the ins and outs of electioneering and policymaking. The object of Sittenfeld's fascination is the seeming incongruity between Alice's liberal sympathies and her bookish intellect and Charlie's conservative nature and general insouciance. Neither character is very likable—Alice weak-willed and martyrlike, Charlie unbearably self-centered—but the novel, Sittenfeld's most fully realized yet, artfully evokes the painful reverberations of the past.
Copyright ©2008 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker

Product Details

  • File Size: 1295 KB
  • Print Length: 576 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1400064759
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (August 18, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001ANUR5O
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,832 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
135 of 155 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
When I ordered this book, I didn't know that it was supposed to be based (loosely or otherwise) on Laura Bush. I ordered it because I am fascinated by what it would be like to be behind the doors of the real White House. (If you want a non-fiction view, I recommend:

America's First Families: An Inside View of 200 Years of Private Life in the White House (Lisa Drew Books)

I did find out that the book was loosely (?) based on Laura Bush's life prior to reading it. It is through that lens that I wound up forming my opinion on the book.

As a work of hypothetical fiction, the book was interesting and entertaining. You meet a lot of characters in the book -- particularly the early life of Alice -- that you wouldn't expect to meet in a midwest middle class traditional family and you catch a glimpse of that period that is outside the Kennedy "Camelot" rose-colored glasses. From that perspective, as a novel, it stretches your imagination and makes for a book that is "out of the ordinary".

However, knowing that it is based in part on the life of Laura Bush -- I think this really does a disservice to the book and to the woman. I don't have strong feelings about Laura Bush either way but by making this a work of fiction, you constantly find yourself wondering which parts were true and which ones were not. If everything was true, then you get a very unkind picture of the person who is Laura Bush. If much of it is untrue, then you feel sorry for Laura Bush for being "slandered" and the voyeurism into what should be very private events, feelings and thoughts for this very public person. You feel a little guilty even reading it.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I Wish I Could Recommend It June 20, 2009
This book started out so, so good, but then just degenerated into a bunch of diatribes that felt false, fake and set-up. Ostensibly based on the life of Laura Bush (although in a historical fiction kind of way), I found myself really enjoying the main character - be it the good, bad or whatever. She felt REAL. But then it just fell apart for me. It felt like the author set out to put in anything and everything that could have maybe happened (or had been "reported" to have happened) instead of remaining true to Laura/Alice. Sittenfeld spent the mid part of the book dealing with George's alcohol issue, but mostly in a tabloid kind of way. This is the way the rest of the book went. There was a paragraph that chronicled his rise from Governor to President. A paragraph. And while I realize this was about Laura, surely there could have been a better way to do this. It's a long book. There should have been a better transition, or time spent elsewhere that would have kept this reader's interest instead of dealing with the minutiae into details that, from all accounts, were not a big deal.

The ending was weak and didn't seem in character at all. Again, enjoyed the character development from the beginning, but it just felt like a chore about mid-way through. Not recommended.
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100 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it September 2, 2008
By B. Lee
Great summaries in the other reviews - I won't repeat those.

I loved the beginning and middle of this book. Loved Alice, her childhood, her growing up experiences, her family, her life as a single woman, her courtships, her experiences with the Blackwell family (these were my favorite sections), and her relationship with her husband, the future president. All of these things are plot lines that Sittenfeld wrote BRILLIANTLY.

When I finished reading this book, however, I was lukewarm about the ending. 2 weeks later, when I was still thinking about the book, I realized how fervently it had stuck with me, and have since decided that it was one of my favorites of 2008 so far.

Great work, Curtis. I praise your boldness and your talent for writing about women in a sometimes awkward and uncomfortable but always honest fashion. Definitely worth the read.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing - but what is fact and what is fiction? September 9, 2009
I wish I had not known beforehand (and Sittenfeld's Acknowledgments at the end make it clear) that this book was inspired by biographies of Laura Bush. I knew relatively little about Laura Bush and googled an outline of her life. I found that in her teens she had accidentally killed a boy friend in a car crash, and when this episode appears early in this novel, it reinforced (and was obviously meant to reinforce) the parallel between Alice Lindgren and Laura Bush, even if a note at the beginning says that while Alice's husband and his parents are `recognizable', `all other characters [i.e. including Alice herself] in the novel are products of the author's imagination, as are the incidents concerning them'.

But, in view of the car accident which really did happen, it is hard not to ask oneself exactly what is invented and what is not. For example: did Laura Bush have a wise and lesbian grandmother? Did she have an abortion at the age of 17? Did her marriage nearly break up at one point? And there are some extensively described sexual scenes with three different men, which is not unusual these days in an ordinary novel; but if one associates them with Laura Bush (and can one help that?), they strike a voyeuristic note and are to my mind an impertinence.

The novel occasionally has unnecessarily detailed descriptions of clothes and of furniture, and there are quite a lot of episodes that are not in themselves particularly interesting or contribute to the story line. But the main characters are well developed and the main story line is compelling - so much so that the reservations I have expressed in the previous paragraph gradually faded, and I was truly absorbed to the very end of this very long book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Great start;slow ending
I really enjoyed the first half of this book! The second half seemed to slow down and get less interesting. I found myself skimming the pages toward the end. Overall it was good! Read more
Published 7 days ago by Ashley Gillespie
3.0 out of 5 stars I would not recommend it. Many parts seemed to awkwardly throw in ...
Certainly not original, though I doubt veracity of the "true" characters attempted. I would not recommend it. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Reader
4.0 out of 5 stars For my taste jumps around too much has good bones, Not memorable...
For my taste jumps around too much has good bones, Not memorable ending. Of course take off on Bush Family.
Published 1 month ago by Kabkalani
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother!
I couldn't finish it. So slow!
Published 1 month ago by Debbie Garvin
1.0 out of 5 stars Not a Good Book!!
To compare this story (even loosely) on the life of Laura Bush is a travesty. By the time chapter 5 rolls around, the teenage heroine is deeply involved in emotionless, dirty sex. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Dewzon
5.0 out of 5 stars struggled to put it down
Pulled me in from the first sentence. Enjoyed every word. Excited to turn each page. Facts? Fiction? Maybe?Maybe not?
Published 1 month ago by sandra l ricci
4.0 out of 5 stars Good story
I liked this book I read it from the library the first time. I don't think everyone will like it. But Curtis Sittenfeld is just a good quirky author. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kathryn Wozniak
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I hoped
The book is fairly well written, but, somehow it failed to completely engage me. The underlying idea is good, there are several thought provoking twists, but after the first 200... Read more
Published 2 months ago by svrr
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor quality. Takes too many liberties
Poor quality. Takes too many liberties.
Published 3 months ago by Carolyn Thompson
4.0 out of 5 stars A little wordy at times but a good read and insight into happenstance
A little wordy at times but a good read and insight into happenstance. You never know where life is going to take you.
Published 6 months ago by Pat Anthony
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More About the Author

Curtis Sittenfeld is the bestselling author of American Wife, The Man of My Dreams and Prep. 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 have been translated into twenty-five languages. Visit her website at

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Topic From this Discussion
Thinly disguised hit piece on Laura Bush?
1. Curtis Sittenfield is a female.
2. It's fiction. And Sittenfield is a gifted writer. I will definitely buy it-can't wait!
Jul 8, 2008 by Sharina |  See all 40 posts
Read it First
I can't believe I read the whole thing! But glad I did. Alice's character was puzzling. I would have never even dated Charlie because of his arrogance, and after I met his condescending family (especially Maj), would never have dated him. Sittenfeld CAN write. Just when I thought things were... Read More
Mar 17, 2009 by nana27 |  See all 4 posts
how clean is this book?
There is. I was flipping through it and there are some situations of that nature. Hope that helps!
Aug 6, 2010 by Jacob's Mama |  See all 4 posts
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