This book is great and thought provoking on it’s own, but after reading it, I immediately started compulsively reading about Laura Bush. Very, very loosely based on Laura Bush’s life, American Wife is the story of a young mid-western teacher who happened to marry a rising politician who would go on to become one of the most publicly reviled presidents in history.
The first lady always feels far more like an “icon” than a person. You get to know the president through their speeches, their actions, what they believe in and what they back down on. The first lady is more mysterious. Michelle Obama has bridged a little of that gap, by making herself seem more human and less perfect. I know about her, personally, and not just her role as wife and mother.
Laura Bush was a bit more mysterious. She was reserved, behind the scenes, more of a figurehead than a person. She was like the last bastion of the old first lady – before the internet and instant communication has made the first lady more accessible. This is a book about that kind of first lady.
And it’s fascinating. Marrying a political figure is the same as giving up your old life. Your job, your friends, you alliances are subject to public scrutiny. You give up “you” to support your spouse. I liked reading about Alice’s life. Her friends, her family, her bad decisions. I liked hearing her internal calculus about what was worth giving up, and what wasn’t. I liked seeing where she took a stand and opposed her husband.
Imagine being moderately liberal and marrying Bush? Any issue you can think of that would arise is addressed in this book. It’s a fun read that’s also thought provoking – my favorite kind.