T wo 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. The first is how, in our litigious age, she ever managed to get what is a barely disguised portrait of Laura Bush past her publisher's legal department. The second is how she could have stomached spending quite so much time imagining Laura and Dubya having sex. Actually, the sex is not so mysterious. Alice Blackwell, Sittenfeld's Laura alter-ego, is likable and moral; the challenge for a novelist is to explain how this woman could have fallen for a man like Charlie Blackwell George W right down to his 'flaring nostrils' and stayed with him. A heavy emphasis on the couple's enduring physical attraction becomes necessary in this context; even so, there are some scenes you'll find hard to scrub from your mind.
In fact, there is no public figure I admire more. Bush, arrives this week, just in time for the Republican convention. It is certainly provocative. But whether readers consider it a valentine remains to be seen. Set in Wisconsin rather than Texas, the novel is about Alice Blackwell, a quiet, perceptive woman who is marred and marked by extraordinary circumstance. When Alice was 17, she ran a stop sign, killing a popular high school boy. As a year-old school librarian, she married the coarse, rakish, heavy-drinking son of a rich Republican family.
Laura Bush has a lesbian grandmother — in this novel
IS IT possible that how you cope with overwhelming guilt determines the rest of your life? In the psyche that Curtis Sittenfeld has presumptuously invented for Laura Bush in this roman a clef, guilt is a beast, a mentor, a lover and a motivation. When Bush was years-old, sober and in broad daylight, she ran a poorly placed stop sign in her hometown of Middleton, Texas, and collided with the car of a boy who may have been her childhood crush.
Laura Bush has always been a quiet one. She's private, modest, unambitious. She was reportedly unhappy when her husband ran for public office, didn't aim to influence his policy, and quit her job upon marrying him.