Curtis Sittenfeld’s AMERICAN WIFE is the fictionalized story of Laura Bush. It is entertaining, funny and tragic, and shows off Ms. Sittenfeld’s pitch perfect voice for both Charlie Blackwell (the George Bush character) and Alice Lindgren (the Laura Bush character).
The novel is in four parts.
Part 1: 1272 Amity Lane, takes us from 1954, when Alice is eight years old to 1963, when she is seventeen and has a tragic accident that changes her forever. This part of the novel is a gripping read, because Ms. Sittenfeld does such a wonderful job of setting up Alice and her family in their ordinary everyday lives, making the tragedy that follows more shocking.
Part 2: 3859 Sproule Street is the story of how Alice and Charlie fell in love in the summer of 1977, and married in the Fall of that year. Here, Ms. Sttenfeld’s ear for speech deploys brilliantly in conveying the Charlie Blackwell character. There is a lot of graphic sex, and even a description of a male body part here.
Part 3: 402 Maronee Drive is about the problems that occur in Alice and Charlie’s marriage, especially over the issue of Charlie’s alcoholism. Set in 1988, it tells how Charlie finally comes to grips with his demons when he discovers religion, after Alice threatens to leave him.
Part 4: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue deals with the threat to expose a secret from Alice’s past if she will not intervene in a Supreme Court Justice nomination. It is set in 2007, during President Blackwell’s second term, and conveys very well the issues and turbulence of that time when the US was fighting a war on two fronts.
Highly recommended: Four Stars.