Reading “American Wife”

Recently finished this fabulous book by author Curtis Sittenfeld. Now I’m eager to read her others.

“American Wife” is a novel that runs from 1954 through 2007, about a lovely woman named Alice Lindgren. She is from a quintessential middle-American family, an only child raised by a banker and housewife in Wisconsin. The boy she believes would have been the great love of her life is killed in a bizarre accident during their high school years and she dreams of him throughout her life.

Alice is a solid woman, strong in her convictions, happy in her work as a librarian. Her best friend, Dena, grew up in the house across the street from her and they remain friends into their 30s. Then she meets Charlie Blackwell at a barbeque and her life takes a new direction.

The Blackwells are a wealthy, country club family that made their fortune selling meat products. Charlie’s father, Harold, the patriarch of the family, had also served as Wisconsin’s governor and the family is vocal in their Republican political beliefs. Although Alice is a Democrat, she and Charlie marry and they eventually end up in the White House.

This book is a good, long read at 555 pages, the type of saga that covers a gamut of issues from race to gay relationships to the very public visibility of political families. Here is an excerpt from the book, a thought by Alice that I thought summed it up quite well:

I have felt strongly since Charlie entered public office that my foremost duty is to take care of him, to be the one person he sees on a daily basis who’s not paid to agree or disagree with him, who really is just a friend. Is it startling, then, that I wasn’t altogether displeased by an event that would draw attention to my disagreement with his stance on a particular issue without my being the one who’d revealed our conflicting views?

curtis sittenfeld

I love that this young author won the Seventeen magazine fiction writing contest in 1992, at age sixteen. Her work has been published in publications such as The Atlantic Monthly, Salon and Glamour, and featured on public radio’s This American Life.

Visit her website at http://www.curtissittenfeld.com/

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