American Wife

Despite (or because?) of my Japanese husband’s objections, I must share my deepest fascination with Curtis Sittenfeld’s new novel, “American Wife.” It describes the life of a slightly ficitonalized Laura Bush. The book was published the day after we left San Francisco for Tokyo, but miraculously I found a copy at the SFO airport bookstore.

I love almost all first ladies, first lady candidates, and even VP candidate husbands. However, I’ve never much liked Ms Bush because of her probably Rx-induced vacant presence. Ms Sittenfeld, a confessed fan, has written *the* novel about this first lady and her unique contributions to femininity and country.

In the first section, “Alice” not only kills her high school friend and would-be boyfriend in a car accident, a fact that is documented. She also loses her virginity with the dead boy’s brother, and receives an illegal abortion performed by her grandmother’s lesbian MD lover. My favorite line, which I had to translate for my husband: “Andrew died, I caused his death, and then, like a lover, I took him inside me.”  

I already anticipate the sadness I will feel when I reach the end of this massive tome of unexpected vulgarity and sympathy. No doubt it will provide many lessons for me to become a better American wife here in Tokyo.

Is anyone else reading this book now?


  1. I am 3/4 into the book, and loving it! It’s funny to read the early blogosphere reviews and the “shock” over the “scandalous” sex, etc.

    What I find shocking is how clearly in-love-with-Laura Bush the author is.

    The fictional Laura is sooo unfailingly polite, concerned with others’ feelings, modest, uncalculating, and morally good. She seems genuinely surprised when she finally realizes ten years into the marriage that everyone, including Babs and all her in-laws, have always considered her husband a total idiot, frat boy.

    This fictional Laura performs a femininity that is at once repulsive and over-the-top. I guess it’s too much to expect her to poison her husband 😉

    Will the final section, on the presidential years, include what has always seemed clear to me, that she is heavily sedated on prescription drugs? I think her Rx habit is more central to her character than her love of books.

    What’s your opinion on the soon to be x-First Lady?

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