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 new-found 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.
"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
"Ms. Sittenfeld deftly captures Alice's uneasy assimilation into the Blackwell clan's boisterous...and she proves equally adept at evoking the daily texture of their early married life." Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
"Curtis Sittenfeld boldly imagines the inner life of a first lady. Does she pull off a credible portrayal? Yes, unequivocally." USA Today
"Sittenfeld wraps her arms around it. The scope and detail of American Wife are reminiscent of Richard Russo." Los Angeles Times
"Sittenfeld's most ambitious and impressive work to date." Chicago Tribune
A kind, bookish only child born in the 1940s, Alice Lindgren has no idea that she will one day end up in the White House, married to the president. In her small Wisconsin hometown, she learns the virtues of politeness, but a tragic accident when she is seventeen shatters her identity and changes the trajectory of her life. More than a decade later, when the charismatic son of a powerful Republican family sweeps her off her feet, she is surprised to find herself admitted into a world of privilege. And when her husband unexpectedly becomes governor and then president, she discovers that she is married to a man she both loves and fundamentally disagrees with-and that her private beliefs increasingly run against her public persona. As her husbands presidency enters its second term, Alice must confront contradictions years in the making and face questions nearly impossible to answer.
About the Author
Curtis Sittenfeld's first novel, Prep, was a national bestseller. It was chosen as one of the Ten Best Books of 2005 by The New York Times, will be published in fourteen foreign countries, has been optioned by Paramount Pictures. Sittenfeld's nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Salon, Allure, Glamour, and on NPR's "This American Life." She lives in Philadelphia.
Reading Group Guide
1. The novel opens and closes with Alice wondering if shes made terrible mistakes. Do you think she has? If so, what are they?
2. Alices grandmother passes down her love of reading. How else is Alice influenced by her grandmother?
3. Why does Andrew remain such an important figure to Alice, even decades later? Do you think they would have ended up together under different circumstances?
4. To what do you attribute Denas anger at what she calls Alices betrayal? Do you believe her anger is justified?
5. Is Charlie a likable character? Can you understand Alices attraction to him?
6. Does Alice compromise herself and her ideals during her marriage, or does she realistically alter her behavior and expectations in order to preserve the most important relationship in her life?
7. Were you surprised by the scene between Alice and Joe at the Princeton reunion? Why do you think it happened?
8. What would you have done in Alices situation at the end of the novel? Do you think it was wrong of her to take the stance she did?
9. How do you think Laura Bush would react to this novel if she read it?