Published by Random House on September 2, 2008
Genres/Lists: Historical Fiction, Political
Read synopsis on Goodreads
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There are few things I love more than a fantastic historical fiction novel based on a political figure and this book hit the nail on the head. Based on the life of Laura Bush, American Wife follows Alice Blackwell from her small town roots in the midwest to her life as First Lady and it is fantastic. Whether she’s describing the beauty of the midwest or the emotional guilt following a fatal accident, Sittenfeld excels at putting the reader in the front row for a spectacular show.
When I first started this book, I thought I would be going to Google after every other page to chec whether something was fact or fiction, but this was not the case. Despite being a longer book (over 550 pages), I was so absorbed and in the story that I completely forgot to fact check (one might argue that this was also a big part of this particular presidency, but that’s another topic for another time). Plus, I’m a political junkie, so I already had a good grasp of major events that were based on real life. Some of these included the President buying a sports team, coming from a political family, having a failed congressional run, and the Iraq war. As for Mrs. Blackwell, she (like Laura Bush) was raised in the midwest, worked as a librarian, and was, of course, a big reader.
There were a few things that tied so well into the story but that I’m guessing were the fictional parts of the book. For example, Mrs. Blackwell was raised in an extremely liberal household and remained true (if not quietly) to her beliefs. The author also took some liberties in building a relationship between Mrs. Blackwell and the boy she killed. I have to assume that all of the parts of the book that had to do with Mrs. Blackwell’s sexual exploits and crises of faith are also fictional. The book is so well written and rooted in fact that I’m left wondering where her storyline fillers came from!
If you’re a fan of historical fiction or politics, then this is definitely a book that you will enjoy. Don’t let its length scare you off – I’ve read far shorter books that took much longer to read! As for me, I think I’ll read Laura Bush’s memoir soon so that I can draw more parallels between the two! In the meantime, I will share with you my favorite quote from the whole book (on her crisis of faith):
“Perhaps it is my avid reading that has been my faith.” (p. 494)