This is a pretty quiet, introspective character study novel of the life of Laura Bush, although Sittenfeld here uses the character pseudonym "Alice Lindgren" and we’re put in Wisconsin rather than Texas. For those that care to delve into the personal history of Laura there is plenty in here for you to Google after reading particularly juicy passages (of which there are many), but for me I found I cared less and less about what was biography…which I guess would be a point for Sittenfeld since this is a novel and not a biography. Those seeking Bush family dirt will recognize most of the actions that occur (the fatal High School car accident, the Roe v. Wade comment) but could be surprised by the personalities (George Sr. gets a pass and Barbara is shown as quite the ice queen).
There’s a lot in here, though a majority of the 600-odd pages deal with life prior to the White House. I kept waiting for elections and losses and victories (the last two might depend on who you ask) but when it came to the build up to the 2000 election I decided those years were actually the least interesting of Alice/Laura’s life. Thankfully Sittenfeld seemed to agree and much is glossed over in favor of how her early life’s traumas and family relationships created the possibly (again, it is fiction) complex woman we now know as the first lady. And if she’s right in her depiction, which I feel is a fair portrayal, then I think no one will be happier to see the Bush’s leave the White House than Laura herself.