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Extended Audio Sample American Wife: A Novel, by Curtis Sittenfeld Click for printable size audiobook cover
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:
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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

  • “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
  • “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

  • “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)

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • “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

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A 2008 Time Magazine Top 10 Book for Fiction
  • One of the 2008 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by 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 by 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 by 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 by Catherine H | 1/31/2014

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

  • > Show All
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