American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
First of all, author Curtis Sittenfeld is a woman—so we cannot comment on the marvel of a male author getting inside the head of the female protagonist. However, we can marvel at the intriguing and believable character the author has created, and the fact that this character, Alice, is closely modeled on First Lady Laura Bush. This is an enticingly addictive book— it reminds me of reading a fairy tale re-telling: the story is familiar, but there are some surprises along the way. (And one wonders what’s based on fact and what’s entirely fictional.) For the first time, I could begin to see why the Bush marriage seems to work. That was a major achievement of this novel. Also, for the first time, I am intrigued by Laura Bush, who—other than her history as a librarian—had not captured my imagination until I read this book. The thing I wonder about most is this: I wonder if Laura Bush feels as conflicted as the fictional Alice does about her husband’s political views and decisions. Another lovely little part of this novel: Alice and her grandmother are huge readers, and it is clear that the joy of losing oneself in a story is vital to Alice. There’s a mention of curling up with a book in the White House, and it just sounded so darn cozy. In addition to the well-drawn characters, there’s a nice arc to the story, which kept me turning the pages. Almost compulsively.