Words like "smear" and "gossip" have flown around American Wife, the novel probing the secret life of Laura Bush, but the book itself is pretty harmless, Maureen Dowd writes in the New York Times. Kings and queens have always inspired art, Dowd notes, and Wife isn’t sensationalist—it’s a well-researched attempt to get inside a guarded but intriguing figure.
The book is quite sympathetic to its protagonist, here pseudonymned Alice Blackwell. Author Curtis Sittenfeld simply colors in the blanks between real-life events—like the time a 17-year-old Laura killed another driver in a car crash. “It’s the sort of novel Laura Bush might curl up with in the White House solarium,” Dowd writes, “if it were not about Laura Bush.”