Thursday, July 09, 2009

American Wife, The Senator's Wife

Two recent books have made me glad to not be married to a man in politics:

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld (audiobook)
Protagonist: Alice Lindgren
Setting: Wisconsin
Rating: 2.5

This was an audiobook I plodded through for a book club meeting, but I found myself gnashing my teeth through most of it. Loosely based on First Lady Laura Bush’s life, it tries to give us a glimpse into the feelings and motivations of a fictional first lady. Yet, it’s hard as a reader to get the image of Laura Bush (or George Bush, for that matter) out of one’s mind. I was too distracted by the attempt to fictionalize the life of a real-life person to enjoy the story. There were also too many parts that just dragged for me, and the ending disintegrated into a piece about the Iraq war. Even for those of us who aren’t right-wingers, this book was a big miss.

The Senator’s Wife by Sue Miller (audiobook)
Protagonists: Delia Naughton and Meri Fowler
Setting: New England
Rating: 4.0
Here, in the hands of a master storyteller, is a more compelling story, or set of stories – that of Delia, an older woman, and the younger Meri, her neighbor. The book alternates between their stories, and we see how each struggles with marriage and independence. But the book’s focus really is on Delia Naughton, the more interesting of the characters. Married to Sen. Tom Naughton, she has been separated from him for years – Tom is unable to be faithful to his wife (and that reminds us of another real-life president). While she remains married to Tom, Delia lives in their family home and he lives in Washington. She and Tom have their occasional fling, but keep these secret from even their own children. When Tom has a stroke and is unable to care for himself, Delia brings him back to the family home to care for him. Finally, Delia has him to herself. But here the characters’ stories intersect for a powerful climax. Weeks after listening to this book, I'm still thinking of the characters -- always a sign of a good book.


Serena said...

I have both of these on the shelf, but haven't read them yet.

Anna said...

I've heard good things about The Senator's Wife, and I hope to read that one at some point. If reading American Wife means I'd keep picturing George and Laura...I think I'll pass. ;)

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