Wednesday, June 10, 2009
The American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
I starting reading this book with no preconcieved notions...it wasn't until after I finished that I read the reviews and the connections to Laura Bush. I even missed the disclaimer in the first page. I'm not slow or anything - I realized who the story was about - but I didn't understand that this was REALLY about Laura.
I have never been a fan of George Bush - not his politics or his demeanor. But, I believed that there must be more to him than we saw...because I really like Laura. She seemed to have it all. She was a librarian after all!! So he couldn't be all bad...he just couldn't be.
Then I read this book.
Now - I don't know.
I really liked the first sections. I liked the story. I felt for the difficulties of Alice's life. I appreciated her craving for quiet and peace. I also respected her choice of Charlie. He was what she wasn't. All that was easy and free in him was contained and uncomfortable in her. They were a perfect compliment.
But things changed. It is sort of like the picture on the cover. What a horrible choice for a cover photo. Alice is unpretentious and almost plain - and here is this headless torso in lace and gloves. Her wedding dress was described by her mother-in-law as peasanty. Clearly this isn't that Alice. Instead it's what she morphs into later...
That brings us to the last section - which I did not like at all. It felt like a big sloppy justification. The long monologues about why things were the way they were just annoyed me. It was as if Alice had forgotten things she had said earlier...like her feeling that Charlie explaining that he wanted his life to matter showed that it might not matter. Now Alice was caught in that same cycle.
I wanted to shake Alice and shout...you're his wife - why don't you talk to him??? How can you let him be such a jerk! How can you think that it's endearing??? How can you forget who you are?
This book made me not like Laura as much.
This story annoyed me like so many other "based on facts" stories do...I constantly wondered which details of Laura's life match Alice's and I'm not sure if I really want to know. I would rather watch her from afar. And keep liking her and disliking her husband. After all, my Fellowship in the library program is courtesy of Laura.
So - what's the bottom line? As a novel, I found the first sections interesting and endearing. I found the last section annoying - and I found myself skimming to find the thread of the story again.