American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Definitely one of my favorite books read in 2012. Easily. I don't know how I missed this one when it came out but I'm glad I found my way to it now. Alice Blackwell tells us of the path of her life that leads her to becoming The First Lady and it's a wonderful time. I can't dislike a librarian. She's introspective and has genuine concern and awareness for what is happening around her as she moves through life. I very much liked her Granny, Emilie. She was so influential in Alice's life & I have to admit that I figured out her secret pretty early on. Alice's parents weren't as clearly drawn but I didn't think it was to the detriment of the story. They certainly weren't as tuned in to Alice as Emilie was. I also figured Dena wouldn't be around as BFF forever, either. She was difficult to like for a sustained period of time because she was selfish & manipulative. I was a little sad that Alice never had another BFF in the same way but given her personality, it didn't seem she suffered a loss in that way. I liked that Alice was always able to have the company of her books & was never lonely. She was content being solitary.
Charlie was fun & infuriating. I did find his quirk about the dark as silly & endearing as Alice. I could see how they made a good match & I was very happy with how Alice was able to tell him her secret & he didn't judge harshly. The Blackwell family was chaotic & ambitious & I enjoyed them. It was strange to read some of their attitudes regarding race because it felt like they were always ten or twenty years behind the times in thought. I kept thinking "This is 1986?! Come on, people!" That's not at all a criticism of the story, it's just that I was alive in 1986 & though I was a child, I wouldn't have thought people so well travelled & read would still be holding onto so much of those old racial tropes then. It was definitely an interesting perspective given the casualness of most of the Blackwells & the outright tones of entitlement & deference of Priscilla.
I did wish that the final section, when we finally reach Alice residing at the White House, was longer. I had expected that it would be but I don't really know why. It was a very good end to what felt like a sit down at tea. Maybe I just didn't want to leave because I came to really like Alice. I read & loved Prep so I was familiar with Curtis Sittenfeld & she exceeded my enjoyment of her writing with this book. This is definitely going on my to re-read list.
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