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American Wifeby Curtis Sittenfeld
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Sittenfeld tracks, in her uneven third novel, the life of bookish, nave 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.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[As] if making the Bush-like couple entirely sympathetic is not enough of a feat in itself, [Sittenfeld] also provides many rich insights into the emotional ebb and flow of a long-term marriage." Booklist
"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
"[A] remarkable piece of work, nuanced and persuasive as a portrait of a decent woman navigating her contradictions and the buffetings of fate....Sittenfeld is terrific at anatomizing the ways of large, rich families like the Blackwells..." Houston Chronicle
"There is a lot of melodrama, but Sittenfeld's understated style works well to bring home Alice's loss of innocence." Kirkus Reviews
"As a career move, American Wife is brilliant, with its timely, sensational back story. If it goes on at too great length for some of us, well, so does the administration it depicts, many critics would contend." The Boston Globe
"Ms. Sittenfeld deftly captures Alice's uneasy assimilation into the Blackwell clan's boisterous, upper-class life...and she proves equally adept at evoking the daily texture of their early married life." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
The New York Times-bestselling author of Prep returns with her most ambitious novel yet — the epic and intimate story of an ordinary woman thrust into extraordinary circumstances when she becomes first lady.
About the Author
Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of The Man of My Dreams and Prep, which was chosen by The New York Times as one of the Ten Best Books of 2005. 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 are being translated into twenty-five languages. Visit her online at www.curtissittenfeld.com.
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