As I read Sittenfeld’s novel, my first thought was about how I had not given the former first lady much thought. I do not mean that in a disparaging way, I mean not to be critical, I merely state it as an observation. Over the past eight years, not much of a personality was ever gleemed from all the coverage at the White House regarding our first lady. As an elementary education teacher, I remember being hopeful when she got to the White House. There was the thought that she, a school librarian, would bring focus to the illiteracy rate in our country or the state of our libraries, badly in need of funds and books. But over the years there was very little in that regards. Given the unpopularity of her husband’s administration, it is understandable that she would keep a low profile and emerge mostly when her daughters were in the spotlight. She promoted their careers, their books and talked about their wedding. How is it that in this media filled world we live in, this first lady managed to escape still such a mystery? To add to our discussion see what you can find out about the former first lady.
Discussion questions from www.Bookmovement.com
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. Why does Andrew remain such an important figure to Alice, even decades later? Do you think they would have ended up together under different circumstances?
4. To what do you attribute Dena’s anger at what she calls Alice’s betrayal? Do you believe her anger is justified?
5. Is Charlie a likable character? Can you understand Alice’s attraction to him?
6. 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?
7. Were you surprised by the scene between Alice and Joe at the Princeton reunion? Why do you think it happened?
8. 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?
9. How do you think Laura Bush would react to this novel if she read it?