Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

The title character of Sittenfeld's novel is Alice Blackwell, a Midwestern girl whose bio — raised in a small-town, degree in library science, married to the ne'er-do-well son of a powerful political family — mirrors that of a certain soon-to-be-former First Lady. But you don't need to be interested in the Bushes or in politics to reap this novel's rewards. In her best-selling debut Prep, Sittenfeld established herself as an empathetic observer of the adolescent mind; here she applies the same skill over decades, building Alice's character with such clarity and finesse that you come to understand — as you can in novels — why this woman makes every decision she makes. If the elusive truths of the Bush Administration turn out to be stranger than fiction, we'll at least know that the fiction inspired by the Bushes can be first-rate.