Review: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

In Books by ashbydodd

“We have to make mistakes, it’s how we learn compassion for others.”

American Wife is the story of Alice Blackwell, wife, mother and First Lady of the United States. Author Curtis Sittenfeld follows Alice from her young days of first love in Wisconsin, through unimaginable tragedy, and into her later years as the wife of a screw up in a very political family.

If you haven’t read the book and plan to, read on with caution, light spoilers ahead….

American Wife is a well-written story that gives the plausible scenario of how a small-town, school librarian can become the First Lady of the United States. Sittenfeld is masterful when writing relateable characters and both Alice and her husband Charlie are relateable, even as they take on one of the highest profile careers in the world. Sittenfeld doesn’t shy away from character flaws and insecurities, she attacks them head on and even highlights them. There were so many parts of this book that I connected with… but for whatever reason it just couldn’t hold my interest for too long.

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Because I had such a visceral reaction to Sittenfeld’s writing in the past, I might have been expecting too much out of American Wife. The author came onto my radar with Prep, an intensely realistic look at a teenager coming up through her high school years in a prep-school environment. The earlier Sittenfeld works had more to do with high school or a focus on college and just after, American Wife is a slight departure from her earlier books. I’m left wondering if I prefer Sittenfeld’s characters in their younger years rather than in mid to late life. Still, I enjoyed the story, connected with the characters, and the pace wasn’t bad at all – it just wasn’t one of my favorites.

“I have been granted the terrible privilege of deciding what would have happened with no one left to contradict me. And maybe I am absolutely wrong.” Curtis Sittenfeld

Curtis Sittenfeld has a great track record with me so far and I will most certainly read her again in the future, American Wife was more an ‘okay’ book rather than a ‘good’ or ‘great’ one but I’d still urge you to pick it up if it interests you and give it a shot. Sittenfeld is a fantastic author and all of her published work is at least worth a try in my opinion.