According to the Wall Street Journal, "Mrs. Bush's delicate rendering of the virtues and rhythms of mid-century Texas life sets this book far apart from the typical score-settling reminiscences of politicians or their spouses." Indeed, the former First Lady's autobiography is pleasantly--if unsurprisingly, given her famously serene demeanor--mostly free of political spitefulness. However, the critics unanimously declared that this sincere and self-assured memoir appears to be two books masquerading as one: a sentimental and richly detailed account of growing up in small-town America and a lackluster chronicle, "more travelogue and recitation" (Washington Post), of her years in the White House. Thoughtfully and elegantly written, Spoken From the Heart lovingly evokes Bush's beloved Texas even if it adds nothing new to readers' understanding of her husband's presidency.
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"A real, moving, intimate story."--"People"
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This book starts out with what a number of professional reviewers called, rightly, "lyrical descriptions" of Mrs. Bush's small-town childhood. I enjoyed that portion and found her recall of specific childhood incidents to be impressive and meaningful. She also did a beautiful job of telling the reader in a very straightforward way of the events of the night when, as an inexperienced driver, she accidentally killed a friend.
Where the book changed tone was in the many descriptions of White House events and the people who attended various state dinners. While these lists were complete, Mrs. Bush almost never provides any personal comments about the famous people she has met, whether celebrities or heads of state. Having gotten to know her in the preceding sections of the book as a thoughtful, loyal and gracious person, it would have been nice to get her "take" on people; instead, she maintains a gracious, somewhat distant tone. Perhaps this is consistent with the sensitive and graceful aspects of her personality but it does make for dry reading.
Overall, a well-written book with many details of a fascinating life but certainly no Kitty Kelly-like tell-all. Recommended for those who want to know both the story behind the news and to appreciate the complexity of the role of First Lady.
By the way, since so many reviewers here took pains to say they are Democrats or Independents, I am proud to say that I am a Republican, like almost half the country. We, too, read books and have opinions.
I have long respected and admired Laura Bush. After reading Spoken From The Heart my respect and admiration for her greatly increased. To read about the scheduled events and obligations; the meetings, dinners, and trips as First Lady, is to realize how little personal time she had left for family and friends and introspection. During her years as First Lady, she worked tirelessly to highlight and to make aware of the many basic unmet human needs in health in Africa and Haiti and elsewhere, literacy and women's rights in Afghanistan, and the many freedoms that are so lacking in many countries around the world. Through her efforts avenues were opened to begin to bring solutions to some of these serious problems. Through the many shattering events of the Bush Presidency she helped illuminate and honor the resiliency of the human spirit of people everywhere. This book was an eye opener for me into the lives of President Bush and Mrs. Bush, and all the people who served with them and the utter complexity of solving world problems. She met many people; the rich and the poor, the powerful and famous and the unknown, the well and the sick, the kind and the rude, and treated them all with the civility and grace that are her hallmarks. She is truly a remarkable person.
I am an independent who read this book not for the politics, but to learn more about the former First Lady. Mrs. Bush has had an interesting and surreal life. I enjoyed reading about her childhood and her roots. Her rise from small town girl to the First Lady of the United States is fascinating. She endured an unbelievable amount of unfair attacks and criticism. But, she showed grace and grit by rising above it all. Mrs. Bush brought dignity to her position...a trait that is sorely lacking in recent years. This book gives an intimate glimpse into the life of an extraordinary woman. Bravo Mrs. Bush.
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This chatty biography of former First Lady Laura Bush will appeal to anyone wanting a glimpse of what it is like to be a private person in the public spotlight. The book appears to perfectly capture the author's personality: polite, graceful, a little forgettable but worthy of respect. Whatever your politics, this firsthand account of the day-to-day activities and challenges of a president's spouse will entertain and enlighten.
The most interesting chapters are the first two, about growing up in Midland, Texas. Bush paints a vivid portrait of small-town life. Her beloved Daddy would come whistling into the house, "with dust on his shoes," telling funny stories, eating jalapeños and laughing with her mother. Bush's mother introduced the girl -- a future librarian and teacher -- to her lifelong love of reading, starting with Pinocchio and Snow White. Bush describes sedate "Daddy dates" at age 13, sitting in the backseats of cars driven by her escort's father. At 17, Bush causes a car accident that kills a good friend; the memory haunts her.
After Bush marries W at age 31 (as one townswoman sniffs: "the most eligible bachelor in Midland marrying the old maid of Midland"), the book settles down into recollections of raising twin babies and political travels. Bush is a quiet influence on her husband and girls, as she asks George to stop drinking, and worries the twins might have problems with their eyesight. There is nothing surprising or revelatory here, but it is diverting and well-written.
Included: 78 photos, both color and black and white, on glossy paper.
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