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The Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story Hardcover – Large Print, June 11, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Lrg edition (June 11, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1455529583
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455529582
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (662 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,115,039 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Koppel offers a revealing glimpse into the lives of “the women behind the spacemen”—from Project Mercury, of the Kennedy years, to the two-man Gemini missions and finally the Apollo program. Beginning with the announcement in 1959 of the seven Mercury astronauts, Koppel paints chatty, personal portraits of each woman as she adjusts to dramatic changes: one day she’s living the life of an ordinary military wife; the next she’s married to a major celebrity. The wives were closely monitored by NASA and expected to be perfect, right down to what they wore and what food they served their husbands. They needed a support group, so the Astronaut Wives Club came into being in 1966. Over the years, they worked together in myriad ways, from helping the wives whose husbands died in crashes or Apollo I’s disastrous launch-pad fire to sleeping in the Lovell’s living room while Jim Lovell was orbiting the moon on Christmas Eve 1968. The U.S. moon program ended in 1972—but many of these unique women still remain connected, friends now for more than 50 years. --Deborah Donovan --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.


"The men catapulted into space in the 20th century were interesting, sort of. The women they left back on earth were fascinating. . . . A lively account of how the wives coped with fame, fear, [and] loneliness."―People (A "Great Summer Read" selection)

"This is one of those light, tasty summer reads you'll guzzle down like a milk shake."―Entertainment Weekly (grade: B+)

"[A] perfect beach read."―Entertainment Weekly's "Must List"

"Breezy and entertaining. . . [Koppel] deserves credit for recognizing the richness of the subject matter. More than 50 years after its inception, many of us now take the space program for granted, but Koppel reminds readers just how bold and innovative it felt in the Sputnik era, and how mysterious the wilderness of space remains. . . Koppel is chronicling a cultural moment more than any particular person, and in this she excels. The details are superb, from the ham loaves the women cooked to the Virginia Slims they chain-smoked, the fur hot pants and the Pucci dresses they wore, the luaus and shrimp-boil parties they threw, and the Mercury-capsule-shaped community swimming pool they shared."―Curtis Sittenfeld, Washington Post

"A remarkable story of perseverance and friendship in a time when women had few rights."―The Daily Beast (A "Hot Read" selection)

"A fair and accomplished reporter. . . . Lily Koppel offers a grounded, irresistible and sociable social history. . . . Koppel's book deftly delivers The Wife Stuff. . . . Koppel does an excellent job of capturing a group portrait with enough highlights, low points, sunny spots and shadows for individual features to emerge. . . . The Astronaut Wives Club is wholly and consistently in Koppel's voice: smart, evocative, informed and warm-an electric fireside chat with the women who put men on the moon."―Chicago Tribune

"[A] true (juicy) story. Gotta love non-fiction that feels like a beach read: Lily Koppel's The Astronaut Wives Club chronicles the wives of 1960s astronauts. . . . Put down that mystery and pick up some history!"―Redbook

"[A] fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at the lives of the women married to the astronauts...Impressive."―The Dallas Morning News

"Intriguing, pleasantly gossipy and often-touching. . . . in its light and engaging way, The Astronaut Wives Club is a reflection on the gap between image and reality, and a glimpse of an unstable time when "good wives" were reckoning the cost of that role."―Columbus Dispatch

"[An] entertaining and quirky throwback...This is truly a great snapshot of the times."―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Engaging. . . . [Koppel] hits the mark, crafting an exceptional story that seriously examines the imperfection and humanity of America's heroic astronauts, their wives, and their families. This work will hold vast appeal for armchair historians, and those interested in feminism, women's history, and 20th-century history."―Library Journal (starred review)

"Insightful social history with a light touch."―Kirkus

"Mad Men fans and history buffs alike won't want to miss a new book about . . . the lives of the astronauts' wives. . . . . We meet the Mercury Seven women in the first chapter of The Astronaut Wives Club, and author Lily Koppel does a nice job of staying close to their stories. By the time you see the women's faces in the pictures, you'll feel like you're a member of the gang. . . . It's hard to believe no one has already written their story, and this reader is glad Koppel finally did."―BookPage (A "Nonfiction Top Pick")

"Koppel has launched her talents into another orbit by writing a book about America's space program that is not only smart, but also fun and sexy . . . . The Astronaut Wives Club is a clever and engaging book celebrating a group of women who, today, are often overlooked -- if not forgotten. It is reasonable to claim that these women held the space program together in its early years. Koppel pays tribute to their emotional stamina in a sympathetic yet unburdened manner. The Astronaut Wives Club will most definitely be embraced in the celebrity-thirsty world that we still live in today; its universal appeal is guaranteed to span generations and demographics of readers. Pack this book along on your summer vacation and you are assured to have a good read, as well as a conversation starter, wherever your spacecraft takes you."―Bookslut

"With an eye for colorful detail, Koppel tells the stories of the women behind the astronauts. . . . The book often reads like a novel, energized by each moon mission."―Barnard Magazine

"There's humor and heartache... we're transported back in time. This book is a Baby-Boomer's dream and is perfect for anyone who's imagined moving among the stars...[it] will send you over the moon."―

"The only thing more delicious than the idea for this book is its execution. Come, all you Mad Men lovers, you girl-bonding-opus fans, you amateur historians who've looked under rugs for unlikely heroines...The Astronaut Wives Club rockets us back to the innocence of a unified mid-century America's space race triumphalism and to an unselfconscious sisterhood-is-powerful in the bud-nice things to recall, and maybe take a tiny bit of heed from, in these more sophisticated but much more complicated times."―Sheila Weller, author of Girls Like Us

"If you thought the only heroes in the history of NASA were its astronauts; if you thought the all-American family regularly seen in the pages of Life magazine was the full story of those astronauts' private lives; and if you've ever dreamed of supersonic romance, dinners at the Kennedy White House, through-the-roof beehives, a group of friends and neighbors going through this crazy time with you, and a celebrity hero husband who is the most admired man in the nation (yet, could die at any minute) ... then you're ready to sign up for Lily Koppel's thrilling, magical, nostalgic, and eye-opening Atlas rocket of a read, The Astronaut Wives Club."―Craig Nelson, bestselling author of Rocket Men and The Age of Radiance

"The Astronaut Wives Club is a fun-loving romp about the devoted women behind NASA's herculean Moon Shot effort. Lily Koppel writes with humor, cunning, and integrity. I found her recounting of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs riveting. Highly recommend!"―Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History at Rice University and author of Cronkite

"The Astronaut Wives Club is spectacular, both in its intimacy and its reach. Lily Koppel pulls out delicious behind the scenes details of the stresses, formalities, pleasures and travails of being the women behind the men on the moon."―Karen Abbott, bestselling author of American Rose and Sin in the Second City --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

I looked forward to reading this book and couldn't get through it.
M. Lee
In addition the book is poorly written in a very simplistic style, frequently jumping from topic to topic with little connection.
Abbey Lynn Sutton
I love the space program and have always wonder what the lives were like for the wives of the astronauts.
Mary Almera

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

104 of 108 people found the following review helpful By David Valentino on July 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In the name of comprehensiveness, Lily Koppel sacrifices a lot, that being a deeper understanding of what it must have been like to be the wives of the astronauts, especially wives of the Mercury 7. In fact,the early pages devoted to the Mercury program are the best part of the book. Koppel probably would have produced a better, more in-depth, and more insightful examination had she focused on these early years. Just my opinion.

Too, much of what she does cover we know already. Long periods of separation, check. Pressure on marriages, check. Horndog husbands (except for a few), check. Tears and breakdowns, check. Bossy NASA, check.

There's a great book lurking in the subject, that's for certain. Unfortunately, this isn't it. Decent reportage at best.

Perhaps a brilliant novelist whose long suit is psychological analysis will tackle the subject. Now, that might be an interesting book.

And no index, no listing of astronauts and wives, nothing you would expect in a non-fiction book of this sort.

The astronaut wives endured a lot and deserve better. A disappointment.
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136 of 149 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I was looking forward to this book -- it's an original topic, a slice of the 1960s that hasn't been done to death. I enjoyed the first chapters, about the Mercury astronauts and their wives, but mostly I found the book disjointed and unsatisfying.

Lily Koppel never seemed to settle on a voice for the book, so that parts of it came across with a wink-wink attitude, such as the way she referred to the women as "astrowives" and the children as "astrokids," and went into great detail about clothes and hair and jewelry as well as various Astro-spats between wives. Other times, the book seemed surreal, as in a description of a get-together after the Apollo 1 tragedy, which described astronauts' widows and families consoling each other and "watching a NASA man perform handstands." There's no further explanation, so we're left with that odd image that seems as if it belongs in a David Lynch movie.

The book covered the families of all the astronauts from the Mercury Program beginning in 1958 to Gemini to Apollo until its end in 1972. This was about fifty families, which was too many for me to keep straight.

Then there were the factual errors. Simple mistakes such as "Senator" Nixon and Khrushchev at the 1959 Kitchen Debate (Nixon was Vice President and had been since 1953), and that Eugene McCarthy beat Lyndon Johnson in the 1968 New Hampshire Democratic primary (Johnson won but was alarmed by how close McCarthy came.) An astronaut wife wears a pair of seventy dollar heels in 1959. (A little internet research finds that Marilyn Monroe paid an extravagant $39.95 for a pair of Ferragamo heels in 1959, so it's unlikely a Navy wife is wearing shoes nearly twice that expensive.
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83 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Marcie on July 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Reads like a high school book report. Lots of Oh My's and Oh Dears. The lack of character development in this book is astonishing. Should have known when there was no bibliography, no source citations, no nothing. If the astronaut wives were interviewed at all, they must be red-faced over this pathetic result. Filled with anecdotes apropos of absolutely nothing. Such a fascinating subject to be covered by such an inept biographer. The wives come out as nothing more than extensions of their husbands and clichéd 1950s stereotypes. Save your money and rent the HBO documentary From the Earth to the Moon. It will tell you more about these women in 90 minutes than this piece of tripe tells you in a couple of hundred pages. The fact that there are good editorial reviews is mystifying - must be out of respect to her status at the New York Times. Hmmm, the fact that she even has status at the NYT is mystifying as well.

If you have an IQ in the triple digits, this book will do nothing but annoy you!
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60 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Jane D. Dreyfus on June 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Since I feel qualified to review the book, having lived a lot of it, I'd like to say "brava" to Lily. She captured the essence of the era. Jane (Conrad) Dreyfus,
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Behind the heroic images of astronauts presented to the world, the astronauts' wives were among the few who truly knew the men behind the impossibly perfect role models they represented to the public. Most of these women had been - as the author writes - "ordinary" housewives", spouses who were "living in drab housing on Navy and Air Force bases". Imagine going from that quiet life to being in the spotlight - having tea with Jackie Kennedy, appearing on the cover of Life magazine ( with the photos retouched, so that it seemed that they all wore the same ideal shade of red lipstick), hounded by photographers.

The Astronaut Wives Club superbly reveals the special challenges of being married to men who were part of the space program (officially announced in April of 1959, along with the introduction of the Mercury Seven astronauts). None of the wives had been trained to deal with sudden publicity. Before then, their husbands were often so busy that they rarely saw them. But after the Mercury Seven astronauts were introduced to the world, their wives now had photographers showing up on their doorsteps, people staring and pointing, and more.

Betty Grissom, wife of Gus Grissom, not only was totally unprepared for the onslaught of journalists but faced them with a raging fever of 102. Alan Shepard's wife, Louise, had to field questions about how long she'd been married, what her kids thought, and how often she worried about her husband dying. And Annie Glenn, wife of John Glenn, had to find a way to face the press while living with the challenge of her lifelong stutter.

They coped without the carefully rehearsed and prepped answers that are commonly prepared by media specialists today.
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More About the Author

Lily Koppel is the New York Times bestselling author of The Astronaut Wives Club (Soon to be a Major ABC Television Series) and The Red Leather Diary. She has written for the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, the Daily Beast, the Huffington Post, and Glamour. She lives in New York City with her husband and their two spacey rescue dogs, Ozzy and Lucky. Follow Lily on Twitter @lilykoppel and on Facebook at

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