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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (24,532 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Curtis Sittenfeld Narrator: Kimberly Farr Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2008 ISBN: 9781415956984
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On what might become one of the most significant days in her husband’s presidency, Alice Blackwell considers the strange and unlikely path that has led her to the White House–and the repercussions of a life lived, as she puts it, “almost in opposition to itself.”

A kind, bookish only child born in the 1940s, Alice learned the virtues of politeness early on from her stolid parents and small Wisconsin hometown. But a tragic accident when she was seventeen shattered her identity and made her understand the fragility of life and the tenuousness of luck. So more than a decade later, when she met boisterous, charismatic Charlie Blackwell, she hardly gave him a second look: She was serious and thoughtful, and he would rather crack a joke than offer a real insight; he was the wealthy son of a bastion family of the Republican party, and she was a school librarian and registered Democrat. Comfortable in her quiet and unassuming life, she felt inured to his charms. And then, much to her surprise, Alice fell for Charlie.

As Alice learns to make her way amid the clannish energy and smug confidence of the Blackwell family, navigating the strange rituals of their country club and summer estate, she remains uneasy with her newfound good fortune. And when Charlie eventually becomes President, Alice is thrust into a position she did not seek–one of power and influence, privilege and responsibility. As Charlie’s tumultuous and controversial second term in the White House wears on, Alice must face contradictions years in the making: How can she both love and fundamentally disagree with her husband? How complicit has she been in the trajectory of her own life? What should she do when her private beliefs run against her public persona?

In Alice Blackwell, New York Times bestselling author Curtis Sittenfeld has created her most dynamic and complex heroine yet. American Wife is a gorgeously written novel that weaves class, wealth, race, and the exigencies of fate into a brilliant tapestry–a novel in which the unexpected becomes inevitable, and the pleasures and pain of intimacy and love are laid bare.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Ambitious…Sittenfeld installs herself deep within the psyche of the tight-lipped wife of the president and emerges with an evenhanded, compassionate look at her mind and heart…powerfully intimate. Grade: A Washington Post

    “A masterful highbrow-lowbrow mash-up that satisfies as ass-kicking literary fiction
    and juicy gossip simultaneously.
  • “Curtis Sittenfeld is one of our best contemporary chroniclers of class and caste… Sittenfeld imagines this couple so deliciously and so plausibly… Curtis Sittenfeld invents a deep, messy, sympathetic life for a public person whose surface is all we'll ever know. St Petersburg Times
  • Immensely readable. It's a nuanced portrait of a woman in a singularly fascinating position. Cleveland Plain Dealer
  • A broad, deep and utterly convincing account…a portrait of a woman and a marriage that also brings the reader as close to the probable essence of the outgoing president as any other novelist, or any biographer, is likely to get. Portland Oregonian
  • “The scope and detail of American Wife are reminiscent of Richard Russo. Like Russo, she creates characters from the ground up, ancestry, neighborhood, culture, and all.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • American Wife is a sparkling, sprawling novel…A ridiculously gifted writer…Sittenfeld has harnessed her talents perfectly in American Wife, producing an exhilarating epic infused with humor, pain, and hope.”

    BookPage

  • “Highly engaging…Fascinating depth.”

    Seattle Times

  • “With her first line—‘Have I made terrible mistakes?’—Alice Blackwell (a fictional First Lady modeled after Laura Bush) reels us into a gripping epic of public and private lives. A gem.”

    Good Housekeeping

  • “Just as she did in Prep, Sittenfeld masterfully deflates the middle-class fairy tale—rose gardens and all.”

    Marie Claire

  • “Bold…[It] conveys in convincing, thoroughly riveting detail a life far more complicated than it appears on the surface…What she does here, in prose as winning as it is confident, is to craft out of the first-person narration a compelling, very human voice, one full of kindness and decency. And, as if making the Bush-like couple entirely sympathetic is not enough of a feat in itself, she also provides many rich insights into the emotional ebb and flow of a long-term marriage.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Terrific…An intelligent, bighearted novel about a controversial political dynasty.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “Remarkable…American Wife is about the long history of a marriage, and…the way we make decisions when we’re young that have consequences we couldn’t have anticipated…Sittenfeld’s most ambitious and impressive work to date.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • A well-researched book that imagines what lies behind that placid façade of the first lady…Ms. Sittenfeld was not out to sensationalize but to sympathize.
    Maureen Dowd, The New York Times
  • Brilliant…[A] triumph…Curtis Sittenfeld has provided a plausible secret history of an American embarrassment – and a grand entertainment. Joe Klein, Time Magazine
  • A smart and sophisticated portrait of a high-profile political wife…Sittenfeld has an astonishing gift for creating characters that take up residence in readers’ heads. Connie Schultz,Washington Post Book World
  • “A well-researched book that imagines what lies behind that placid façade of the first lady…Sittenfeld was not out to sensationalize but to sympathize.”

    New York Times

  • “Brilliant…[A] triumph…Curtis Sittenfeld has provided a plausible secret history of an American embarrassment—and a grand entertainment.”

    Time

  • “A smart and sophisticated portrait of a high-profile political wife…Sittenfeld has an astonishing gift for creating characters that take up residence in readers’ heads.”

    Washington Post Book World

  • “Sittenfeld boldly imagines the inner life of a first lady…An intimate and daring story…American Wife is a vicarious experience, an up-close portrait of the interior life of a very complicated woman…Cinematic.”

    USA Today

  • “Curtis Sittenfeld is one of our best contemporary chroniclers of class and caste…Sittenfeld imagines this couple so deliciously and so plausibly…Curtis Sittenfeld invents a deep, messy, sympathetic life for a public person whose surface is all we’ll ever know.”

    St. Petersburg Times

  • “The novel, Sittenfeld’s most fully realized yet, artfully evokes the painful reverberations of the past.”

    New Yorker

  • “Immensely readable. It’s a nuanced portrait of a woman in a singularly fascinating position.”

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • “A broad, deep, and utterly convincing account…A portrait of a woman and a marriage that also brings the reader as close to the probable essence of the outgoing president as any other novelist, or any biographer, is likely to get.”

    Oregonian

  • “An entertaining, racy tale that’s inspired more than a bit by the life of…Laura Bush…A well-told tale that will leave many readers wondering: How much of Sittenfeld’s story might be closer to fact than fiction?”

    St. Louis Post Dispatch

  • We love Sittenfeld. We love her wry, razor-sharp observations. We love her funny, straightforward honesty…[American Wife] is an empathetic, fascinating, and gorgeously written story about a 30-year marriage. We devoured it in one night. Boston Magazine
  • Endearing and poignant, humorous and enlightening, American Wife is a must-read for Sittenfeld fans--and a good first read for would-be converts. Fredericksburg Freelance Star
  • An entertaining, racy tale that's inspired more than a bit by the life of our current president's wife, Laura Bush…A well-told tale that will leave many readers wondering: How much of Sittenfeld's story might be closer to fact than fiction? St Louis Post Dispatch
  • The scope and detail of American Wife are reminiscent of Richard Russo. Like Russo, she creates characters from the ground up, ancestry, neighborhood, culture and all. LA Times
  • American Wife  promises to be another sensation. Dayton Daily News
  • Bold…conveys in convincing, thoroughly riveting detail a life far more complicated than it appears on the surface…What she does here, in prose as winning as it is confident, is to craft out of the first-person narration a compelling, very human voice, one full of kindness and decency. And, as if making the Bush-like couple entirely sympathetic is not enough of a feat in itself, she also provides many rich insights into the emotional ebb and flow of a long-term marriage.
    Booklist, Upfront and Starred review
  • American Wife is a sparkling, sprawling novel…A ridiculously gifted writer…Sittenfeld has harnessed her talents perfectly in American Wife, producing an exhilirating epic infused with humor, pain, and hope. BookPage
  • Widely anticipated and vastly entertaining… An intelligent, well-crafted, psychologically astute novel New York Sun
  • Highly engaging…fascinating depth. Seattle Times
  • A well-researched, juicy roman a clef about the current first lady. Boston Globe
  • Ambitious…entertaining…a parable of America in the years of the second Bush presidency. Joyce Carol Oates, cover of The New York Times Book Review
  • With her first line - “Have I made terrible mistakes? Alice Blackwell (a fictional First Lady modeled after Laura Bush) reels us into a gripping epic of public and private lives. A gem.
  • This searing page-turner will make you wonder what unspoken promises lie behind the victory smiles of any power couple. Redbook
  • What is Laura Bush thinking? That’s the question Sittenfeld ponders in her novel,
    loosely based on the life of our First Lady…Just as she did in Prep, Sittenfeld masterfully deflates
    the middle-class fairy tale — rose gardens and all.
    Marie Claire
  • Sittenfeld boldly imagines the inner life of a first lady…an intimate and daring story…American Wife is a vicarious experience, an up-close portrait of the interior life of a very complicated woman…cinematic. USA Today
  • The novel, Sittenfeld’s most fully realized yet, artfully evokes the painful reverberations of the past. New Yorker
  • Compelling...enormously sympathetic...Sittenfeld’s remarkable gifts as a storyteller draw you back into the fictional world of Alice Blackwell. She writes in the sharp, realistic tradition of Philip Roth and Richard Ford–clear, unpretentious prose; metaphors so spot-on you barely notice them. Sittenfeld may have lifted the set pieces from a real woman’s life, but in the process she has created a wise and insightful character who is entirely her own. Time Out New York
  • One of the 2008 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Fiction
  • A 2008 Time Magazine Top 10 Book for Fiction
  • A New York Times Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amy | 2/16/2014

    " It jumps around a lot but what an interesting book based loosely on the life of Laura Bush. It really gives you a lot to mull over. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laura | 2/7/2014

    " I considered giving this book 5 stars. While it was a very good story (never did I look ahead to see how many chapters were left), I had one main problem with it. I had trouble maintaining the separation of fact and fiction. Going in, I knew it was essentially the story of a real first lady. I didn't know enough about the book to know which one. Because of that, I was able to imagine a fictionalized Alice. Even when it was clearly revealed to be about Laura Bush, I continued my best to hold onto my fictionalized Alice and later, Charlie. For a lot of the book, that worked, but my mind keep producing images of Laura and George Bush. This was especially awkward during their annoyingly predictable bedroom scenes. I do not want to know the graphic details of their intimacies! I'd also get sidetracked looking for for other fictionalized substitutions for reality. Was Halcyon really Kennebunkport? Did Laura really love the teenager who died in the car accident? Did George have false residences in Texas? I'm sure other readers didn't have these distractions; I did, though. That said, I felt the characters were artfully developed. I really liked some of them, namely Alice and Jessica, and I really disliked most of the Blackwells, especially Maj. I will look for Prep; I think I'll enjoy it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Katy | 2/3/2014

    " There was something about the writing style that I just loved. I've recommended this several times. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Catherine H | 1/31/2014

    " tricked- this book is loosely based on barbara bush... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kathleen | 1/27/2014

    " I'm conflicted about this book. I really enjoyed the first 2/3 of it and I was captivated by the complex and interesting character than Sittenfeld developed. However, I was never able to understand that attraction to Charlie and found the end of the book almost tedious. Did Sittenfeld mean for readers to get so impatient and frustrated with Alice? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jane | 1/20/2014

    " Ummm not what I expected..... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jennifer Singleterry | 1/19/2014

    " Read this for the second time. Love the first three sections, but was let down by the ending. Still definitely worth reading. Makes you think about your reaction to the bush administration, but also about marriage, relationships, and how people end up together. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Erica Kilgore | 1/15/2014

    " Fascinating. Charming. Based on the life of Laura Bush, who is far more interesting anyway. She even makes ole Dubya a romantic dolt. You can see how she was drawn in, and how she had the dignity & grace to thrive. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Samantha | 12/27/2013

    " i liked it, but it got to be a bit long at the end. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mridu Bhattacharya | 12/13/2013

    " Very slow, in the middle of the book I started feeling I was reading a school-time Mills & Boons. Just I was about 6to enter into the actual story (I think so), I decided to get over it and will read it at later point of time. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mara | 11/24/2013

    " The beginning of the book was better than the last third. But still, really good. A "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Andrea | 11/12/2013

    " I really enjoyed this book. It is well-written. Author is a great story teller. While it is fiction, it is loosely based on Laura Bush's life. And a fascinating fictional portrayal. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Louann | 11/12/2013

    " Didn't get too far into the book when I realized it would not be the book for me. Too explicit. I did not continue reading the book. This is why I read many young adult books - they have good plot lines, engaging characters and no explicit language or sex. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carrie | 10/28/2013

    " Very nicely written. Good details to paint the picture of the times. Makes you think twice about what it's like to be the first lady. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Erin | 3/27/2013

    " Very much enjoyed it. Opened my eyes and my mind. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Alice Ciaccio | 3/14/2013

    " I loved this book! It was such an eye-opener into the private lives of very public figures. I know a lot of it is fiction based, and some people found it offensive, but I felt that it portrayed "real people" in real life - not just "perfect political" ones. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ashley | 2/20/2013

    " Overall a pretty good book, but it took me quite awhile to get through it. The author did a nice job with the characters, but I remember preferring Prep to this book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Alana | 12/3/2012

    " I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was touching. There were definitely certain points I couldn't put it down more than others but overall, it was well written and just a great story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michelle W | 9/23/2012

    " Predictably predictable but I really liked the description of her emotions. Felt very real and I could relate! Don't really know how Laura Bush does it...but love knows no boundaries I guess. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Donna Jones | 9/21/2012

    " Interesting -- I learned some things about former First Lady Laura Bush I hadn't known, and liked her better. After becoming interested in her from reading this book I read a biography on her and was amazed at how this novel followed real life so closely. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tammi | 3/27/2012

    " It was really good.... And then it got long and slow. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nitya Mathew | 12/20/2011

    " Like EVERY other reviewer, I felt the book really flag in the last quarter. I almost loved the first three parts and it was well on its way to a four-star rating. But, sigh, I didnt know what the fourth part was trying to say. Made me feel preached to and a little stupid. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Carrie | 12/10/2011

    " This book was really good. I couldn't put it down. I'm still curious how much was fact and how much was fiction :) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Misae Sakamura onaka | 11/26/2011

    " Cute. The characters remind me of .... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 David Ebershoff | 11/8/2011

    " This is one of the best novels of the last decade. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Patty | 6/30/2011

    " I have always thought Laura Bush is a very decent, classy, intelligent, gracious woman with an interesting past. Whether any of this is true or not...I don't know. But I would love to believe she really is "that human." "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mimy | 6/27/2011

    " Reimagines the life of Laura Bush. Very disturbing to read about her and the former president in sexual situations... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alicia | 6/23/2011

    " Poignant insight into a complicated yet ordinary woman, brilliant "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Laurelaura | 6/20/2011

    " I like it until perhaps the last 100 pages - was a great exploration of what makes relationships work. But then it got all weird/political/too transparently about the Bush family. After all the liberties taken earlier, it was much too far-fetched! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Katie | 6/19/2011

    " Loved this book. It's loosely based on Laura Bush's life but whether you like her or not it was an entertaining book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Susan | 6/18/2011

    " Totally enjoyed this from beginning to end!! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Leah | 6/10/2011

    " Good book but for some reason it took me 3 years to read it!
    "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Vivian | 6/10/2011

    " Written by a proclaimed Democrat who admires Laura Bush, this book is loosely based on Laura's life. I enjoyed the book, but now I want to read a Laura Bush bio. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Waterstoneswalsall | 6/9/2011

    " It wasn't what i thought it would be "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Allison | 6/8/2011

    " I was surprisingly engrossed for the first 3 sections. The 4th started to lose me, I must admit. "

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About the Author
Author Curtis SittenfeldCurtis Sittenfeld is the bestselling author of the novels Prep, The Man of My Dreams, and American Wife, which have been translated into twenty-five languages. Her nonfiction has been published by The New York Times, The Atlantic, Salon, Allure, and Glamour, and broadcast on public radio’s This American Life. She graduated from Stanford and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.
About the Narrator

Kimberly Farr is an actress and eight-time winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award for narration. She has appeared on Broadway and at the New York Shakespeare Festival, the Roundabout Theatre, Playwright’s Horizons, and the American Place. She created the role of “Eve” in Arthur Miller’s first and only musical, Up from Paradise, which was directed by the author. She appeared with Vanessa Redgrave in the Broadway production of The Lady from the Sea and has acted in regional theaters across the country, including a performance in the original production of The 1940’s Radio Hour at Washington, DC’s Arena Stage.