Friday, May 28, 2010

Discussion Questions for American Wife


In Brief
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 trajectoryof 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.
(From the publisher.)

1. The novel opens and closes with Alice wondering if she’s made terrible mistakes. Do you think she has? If so, what are they?

2. Alice’s grandmother passes down her love of reading. How else is Alice influenced by her grandmother?

3. To what do you attribute Dena’s anger at what she calls Alice’s betrayal? Do you believe her anger is justified

4. Is Charlie a likable character? Can you understand Alice’s attraction to him?

5. Does Alice compromise herself and her ideals during her marriage, or does she realistically alter her behavior and expectations in order to preserve the most important relationship in her life?

6. What would you have done in Alice’s situation at the end of the novel? Do you think it was wrong of her to take the stance she did?

7. How do you think Laura Bush would react to this novel if she read it?

If you have any other questions you'd like to raise post them in the comments! Can't wait to hear what everyone has to say!!


Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

1. I don't think she has made a terrible mistake. She seems to have a wonderful relationship with her husband and as soon as they are out of the public eye, I think the differences in political beliefs won't be as big of a deal. It will definitely still be a challenge, but at least she won't be in the spotlight anymore.

2. I think she has her grandmother's spirit - and I think her grandmother taught her to be more open minded.

3. I thought Dena's anger was so unjustified. She hadn't even dated Charlie so I don't know why she felt so entitled to him. I personally did not care for Dena's character. I thought she was a selfish baby.

4. I do think Charlie is likeable. I could just see him and his sh*t-*ss grin. I think he's someone you don't want to like, but can't help liking.

5. She does compromise herself & her ideals in the marriage. She attends all these rallies and speeches and cheers for things she really isn't a fan of. That would be incredibly hard.

6. I don't think what she did was wrong, per se... But I can see why Charlie felt betrayed. As president, he's always under attack so I can see why it was very hurtful to have his wife go against him in teh public eye. I don't know how i would have handled it differently, though.

7. I am not sure how she'd feel... I think she would be concerned that people think everything in the novel is true.

Great book! Probaly one of the best books I have read in 2010!!

Kelly said...

1. I don't think anyone can really decide this for another person- I don't particularly want her life, so if I chose it, I think it might be a mistake for me. But maybe it wasn't for her...

2. Hmm...I think she is sort of a toned down version of her grandmother- her grandmother was more of a strong personality. She is sort of a combination of her mom and her grandmother...

3. No, Dena TOTALLY overreacted. Charlie was clearly not hers to claim. All I can assume is that Dena was recovering from her divorce and not thinking straight. But then again, she was always a pretty selfish character.

4. Honestly, Charlie is not my type so I don't personally understand Alice's attraction to him, but I think he is the type of guy that a lot of girls like. I think people like Alice who don't have strong opinions tend to look for people who DO have strong opinions and strong personalities- she did that with Dena and again with Charlie.

5. I think Alice compromises her ideals a bit when she marries Charlie in the first place- I think they should've dated for longer before making the decision to get married- I'm not into the speed decisions. But, that being said, once she is married I think it was okay for her to alter a bit to preserve her relationship, the world could probably use a bit more of this.

6. I think I would've talked to him too but not outright said he was right, I would've just said I understand, and I'm sorry...It was probably not the right thing to do to go against Charlie, especially when Alice openly admits that she doesn't REALLY know exactly what the political situation was.

7. She must have read it at this point right? I can only assume that's why she wrote her own show what parts are true haha. If she was smart she'd like this book because no offense to her but I probably never would've read her autobiography and now I REALLY want to!

Amber @ A Little Pink in the Cornfields said...

1. I don't think Alice has made terrible mistakes at all. She's led a very successful life and always tried to do the right thing in every situation.

2. I think Alice is influenced by her grandmother in her fear of letting her down. She always seemed to want to please her grandmother.

3. No, I do not believe Dena's anger is justified. Dena's anger is so clearly jealousy and denial.

4. Charlie is a very likeable character! I completely understand Alice's attractions to him because he is so charismatic and confident without it coming across as overly arrogant.

5. I do not believe Alice compromises her beliefs at all. She brings things up when she needs to, but she is very good at remaining her own person separate from Charlie which I believe will be hard to do in any marriage.

6. I do not think it was wrong what Alice did, but I do believe she should have discussed it with Charlie before blind siding him like that.

7. I think Laura Bush would laugh. From everything I have read about Laura Bush she doesn't take herself too seriously and can laugh at herself, which is a very admirable quality. I would think she would hope that people would know that this IS a work of fiction and only loosely based on her life. This is a question I have often wondered about.

This is by far one of my favorite books. Laura Bush is one of my favorite people and Alice Blackwell is one of my favorite fictional characters. I just adore this book and will probably read it several times in my lifetime!

Becky said...

This book brought up a lot of different feelings for me. I don't know that I would say Alice's relationship with her husband is a great one, I would just say it has survived a presidency which in itself is quite a feat. However, there were definitely times I couldn't believe she stayed with him, and it had nothing to do with politics.

He called her names, he was a drunk (granted he changed that), but really - he made her come home early from spending time with her mother after her grandmother's funeral - and that was after he'd left himself. At times I felt like he had no respect or regard for Alice and instead of confronting him about it she just chose not to fight. (Her passive-ness was also something that drove me crazy).

I read the note from the author in the back of the book and I'm interested to read the other book she recommended (nonfiction) about Laura Bush.

It probably sounds like I hated this novel, but I didn't, I enjoyed it and it really made me think. Review to come on my blog next week, but I have a lot to say so it's going to take me some time to write it!