Like the last PBF Book Club post I did, the first part of this post will be my review, followed by several discussion questions. Feel free to post your own review (I love reading them!) and answer any or all of the discussion questions in the comments section.
When this book came out on top of the poll for the October book club selection, I must admit I wasn’t too pumped. Though it sounded decent, I was pulling for Unbroken and wasn’t sure American Wife was going to be a book I would enjoy.
When I learned that the book is loosely based on the life of Laura Bush, the former first lady of the United States, I became much more intrigued.
The book follows the life of Alice Lindgren, a bright, well-mannered girl growing up in Wisconsin in the 1940s. Alice’s life is simple until she is involved in a serious accident in high school that leaves her devastated and unsure how to cope and recover. Throughout the grieving process she makes some interesting decisions that were unexpected. Her actions kept me as a reader interested to see how Alice’s life would evolve and how she would continue to cope with this tragic event in her adult life.
Alice grows up to be a librarian and in her late 20s meets a boisterous man named Charlie Blackwell who is handsome, charismatic and republican and comes from a well known, wealthy family. Alice, a democrat, doesn’t think much of Charlie at first, but eventually falls for his magnetic personality and the two are married within a few short months of meeting. Eventually Charlie’s career leads them to the White House.
American Wife is told from Alice’s perspective and I really enjoyed her character. I found Alice thoughtful, likable and intelligent. As for the parallels between Alice and Laura Bush, I kept wondering which parts of the book were truly fictional and which were real, which was a bit distracting but also quite intriguing. (The accident was real. Her grandmother was not a lesbian, though she does support gay marriage and abortion, as the book states.)
I found the relationship between Alice and Charlie very interesting to read about, as the author did a great job of showcasing a marriage that was intense, passionate and loving, but not without serious fights and difficult times. I liked how the author didn’t sugarcoat their relationship and yet still made me root for them to work things out and continue to be together. (If you read the book, did you want them to stay together?)
Perhaps my favorite part of the book came toward the end when the author wrote about fame and how Alice and Charlie handled the intense scrutiny over their lives. It made me wonder how many famous people really want to be famous or just happened to become famous because the career they most desired thrust them into fame or they fell in love with someone famous. It was interesting to think about the real people behind the public personas.
I cannot conclude my review without mentioning one of my favorite characters, Alice’s grandmother. I was intrigued by her evolving relationship with Alice and her sassy personality made her a favorite of mine from the beginning. Plus, I adored their shared love of reading.
- Did your perspective on fame change while reading American Wife? Would you ever want to be famous? Did reading this book alter these desires in any way?
- Does Alice compromise herself and her ideals during her marriage, or does she realistically alter her behavior and expectations in order to preserve the most important relationship in her life?
- What would you have done in Alice’s situation at the end of the novel? Do you think she was wrong to take the stance that she did?
- Did you think Charlie Blackwell was a likable character? Can you understand Alice’s attraction to him?