American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
A Novel

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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.

BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Curtis Sittenfeld's Sisterland.

Praise for American Wife

“Curtis Sittenfeld is an amazing writer, and American Wife is a brave and moving novel about the intersection of private and public life in America. Ambitious and humble at the same time, Sittenfeld refuses to trivialize or simplify people, whether real or imagined.”
–Richard Russo

“What a remarkable (and brave) thing: a compassionate, illuminating, and beautifully rendered portrait of a fictional Republican first lady with a life and husband very much like our actual Republican first lady’s. Curtis Sittenfeld has written a novel as impressive as it is improbable.”
–Kurt Andersen

About Curtis Sittenfeld

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Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of The Man of My Dreams and Prep, which was chosen by The New York Times as one of the Ten Best Books of 2005. Her nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Salon, Allure, Glamour, and on public radio's This American Life. Her books are being translated into twenty-five languages. www.curtissittenfeld.comFrom the Hardcover edition.
Published August 18, 2008 by Random House. 576 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Literature & Fiction, History, Romance. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for American Wife

Kirkus Reviews

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Unfortunately, once Charlie Blackwell comes on the scene to tie Alice awkwardly to semi-accurate facts, the story becomes a plodding, predictable series of close encounters with the factual history of a family Americans already know well: Charlie’s white-haired, overbearing mother and genuinely d...

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The New York Times

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Would we be interested in reading Curtis Sittenfeld’s new novel, “American Wife,” if it weren’t obvious that the narrator, Alice Blackwell, is modeled on the first lady, Laura Bush?

Aug 28 2008 | Read Full Review of American Wife: A Novel

The New York Times

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The life of this novel’s heroine -- a first lady who comes to realize that she has compromised her youthful ideals -- is conspicuously modeled on that of Laura Bush.

Aug 31 2008 | Read Full Review of American Wife: A Novel

The Guardian

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And a once a simple morning ritual - reading the morning newspaper - becomes for Alice, in the White House, a strategic exercise in trying to reach the arts section without reading the many pieces denigrating her husband, yet taking in enough to answer, in "a neutral tone", his bullish inquiry: "...

Oct 11 2008 | Read Full Review of American Wife: A Novel

The Guardian

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Two mysteries hover over Curtis Sittenfeld's timely third novel, American Wife, a fictional memoir by a 21st-century First Lady that was rushed out in the US to coincide with the Republican National Congress.

Oct 12 2008 | Read Full Review of American Wife: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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Sittenfeld tracks, in her uneven third novel, the life of bookish, naïve Alice Lindgren and the trajectory that lands her in the White House as first lady. Charlie Blackwell, her boyishly char

Jul 07 2008 | Read Full Review of American Wife: A Novel


Alice is your typical girl: she loves to read, she wants to be a teacher when she grows up, she has one really close best girl friend, and she kills the love of her life in a car accident.

Jul 30 2010 | Read Full Review of American Wife: A Novel

AV Club

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Alice narrates the novel, and her calm, mannered prose expresses Wife's conflict: When the fault lines in the Blackwells' marriage become magnified over a nation, what responsibility does she have, to her husband and to herself?

Oct 01 2008 | Read Full Review of American Wife: A Novel

Entertainment Weekly

The most shocking thing about American Wife, Curtis Sittenfeld's novel based loosely on the life of Laura Bush, is not the fictional First Lady's illegal abortion.

Sep 01 2008 | Read Full Review of American Wife: A Novel

The Telegraph

Sittenfeld seizes upon the fact that Laura Bush was once involved a similar incident and extrapolates with alacrity: an unhealthy relationship with the dead boy's brother leads to pregnancy and an illegal abortion - skeletons the wife of a Republican president can ill afford to have in her closet.

Nov 12 2008 | Read Full Review of American Wife: A Novel

USA Today

There's something for everyone out in paperback, from an edgy crime story set in the Big Apple to the gentle crime-solving by Botswana's No.

Sep 11 2008 | Read Full Review of American Wife: A Novel


Curtis Sittenfeld’s latest novel is a fictional account of a first lady, closely mirroring the life of Laura Bush.

Nov 29 2009 | Read Full Review of American Wife: A Novel

Tampa Bay Times

But Sittenfeld imagines this couple so deliciously and so plausibly, and inhabits Alice's slightly prissy, undramatic voice so elegantly, that those who are allergic even to fantasy Bushes will enjoy the ride — especially once Alice finds herself in the Blackwell family's wonderland of money and ...

Nov 02 2010 | Read Full Review of American Wife: A Novel

Story Circle Book Reviews

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Sep 08 2008 | Read Full Review of American Wife: A Novel

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Apr 13 2016 | Read Full Review of American Wife: A Novel

New York Magazine

In a coy little note preceding her radioactive, Republican-baiting scandal bomb of a novel American Wife, Curtis Sittenfeld writes that the book was “loosely inspired by the life of an American first lady.” She means loose here in the sense that gymnasts’ ponytails, hipster jeans, third face-lift...

Sep 04 2008 | Read Full Review of American Wife: A Novel

Fiction Writers Review

”I’m sure I said ‘I read.’ But I certainly didn’t say ‘I admire.’ ” (As for smoking, Mrs. Bush eventually quit.) But Barbara Bush said in a recent interview that she remembered both her daughter-in-law’s three-part answer and her mother-in-law’s reaction.

Nov 19 2008 | Read Full Review of American Wife: A Novel

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