Private History

A new novel conjures the inner life of a familiar First Lady

Illustration by Dave Wheeler for TIME

It is a classic story. the demure small-town librarian swept off her feet by the handsome prince--a story with its roots in Cinderella ... and also, in this case, in the rather unbelievable recent history of our country. The librarian is smart and attractive but almost catatonic with guilt: her carelessness behind the wheel once caused the death of a good friend. The prince is charming, as advertised, but also carefree in a way that the librarian envies and mistrusts. He adores her, without question. She succumbs, with reservations. In Curtis Sittenfeld's brilliant novel American Wife, their names are Alice Lindgren...

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