For months I looked forward to the unintentionally hilarious sex scenes in American Wife (Random House, 592 pp., $15, paperback) that Sam Anderson had mentioned in his New York magazine review of this novel about a stand-in for Laura Bush. But when my card number came up at the library, I found those passages to be something less than thigh-slappers. (Memo to Curtis Sittenfeld: For an example of how to write unintentionally hilarious sex scenes, see Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach, longlisted for the Bad Sex in fiction award from the Literary Review.) I read about a third of American Wife, thinking: Why am I reading this? What I read said little new about Laura Bush or first ladies. So I quit with the sense that the book wasn’t good enough to deserve much of the praise it had received or bad enough to qualify for a Delete Key Award. But lots of people disagree with me on this one. Among them: Joyce Carol Oates, who called it an entertaining “parable of America in the years of the second Bush presidency” in the New York Times Book Review.
© 2009 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.