Monday, August 02, 2010
By Curtis Sittenfeld
Alice was just an ordinary girl from an ordinary family in an ordinary town. Her folks were neither rich nor poor. Alice was neither beautiful or ugly, neither brilliant or stupid. If fate had been a little kinder, she probably would have spent the rest of her life in her home town, married to a local boy, maybe teaching school, with a couple of kids, leading an ordinary life.
But fate stepped in and everything went awry and Alice went on to have the kind of life that very few ever experience: First Lady of the United States.
Alice had a crush on a boy in her high school and she was sure he liked her too. But driving to a party one night, Alice ran a stop sign and hit another car, a car that was being driven by the same boy she had a crush on. The boy was killed. Alice naturally felt terribly guilty. Her guilt drove her to seek a life away from her home town. She ended up in Chicago, where she met the man who would be her husband and who would become the President of the United States.
I picked up this book at a used book sale, not knowing anything about it. But I gradually came to realize that Alice was based on First Lady Laura Bush. In the book, Alice always carries a torch for the boy she killed and while she loves her husband, in her way, she never forgets that boy and she never stops wondering what kind of life they could have had together. Marrying Charles, Alice gets swept along on his quest to make his mark in the world. She doesn't agree with his politics and she doesn't like the public life but she does what is expected of her. She doesn't make waves and she behaves like a good little wifey should.
This book started out pretty good but after Charles & Alice are married, the story slows way down. At that point it was so boring that I stopped reading it for several weeks. Charles is not an appealing character and it was a puzzle as to why Alice stayed with him, especially since he was a conservative and she a liberal. The book doesn't go into a lot of detail about the political years and takes up the story of the presidency only in the second term.
So I did enjoy the first part of the book but after Alice and Charles get married the story was a lot less interesting.