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Sunday Book Review — Grown-up Books: “An Atomic Romance,” by Bobbie Ann Mason & “American Wife,” by Curtis Sittenfeld

December 1st, 2019

Sky and ocean

(Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Just started Bobbie Ann Mason’s “An Atomic Romance” (Random House, 2005, 277 pages). This “signed by the author!” copy came from my local Little Free Library. You know those little neighborhood free book kiosks that you see all over the place now? Especially if you live in Oregon? OK, maybe only in Oregon, since I never travel out of state. Kidding! I know it’s an international thing.

I’ve never read anything by Mason, but so far so good, babies. I’ll get back to you.

Just finished “American Wife,” by Curtis Sittenfeld (Random House, 2008, 555 pages) and it’s something else. (I like writing book reviews on my own site, because I’m going to say whatever I feel like saying.) (Always.) (“Wow, this book was really neato.”) (Fresh, hot, daily, by Wacky Mommy.)

Both this and “An Atomic Romance” were good Free Library finds. The latter is a paperback copy, not shredded. “American Wife” is hardcover, in pretty decent condition, other than the cover being slightly battered. I like the notes, bookmarks and other telltale signs that you find with used books. This one is stamped on the inside: “No Longer Property of the Queens Library/ Sale of This Item Supported the Library.” The back inside cover has the Queens Library website on a sticker. The sticker on the back is from Cel-Hot Picks!, located on Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica, N.Y. It traveled all the way from the East Coast to the West Coast (best coast), it had a life before it got here.

So I was already enamored of this book, as you can probably tell, before I even opened it.

Sittenfeld is quite brilliant, I do say, in the way she tells this elegant, thoughtful tale of a fictional politician’s wife, a character who may or may not be based on former First Lady Laura Bush, and her story. You get to hear the most intimate details of her life, in all their sexiness, matter-of-factness, candidness, tedium and every other emotion you can think of.

She became my friend, Alice, we became one-way confidants, even though she’s not real, even though she stepped into my life and stepped out again so gracefully. The supporting cast is great, too — well-rounded, funny, harsh. Human. Brilliant fictional humans.

It’s a crazy, backwards fairytale, this book.

OK, now back to those Little Free Libraries for a moment. They’ve been a thing for awhile now, and they’re pretty cool. I’ve passed along and picked up a number of copies. But… but… but… If you don’t want that book, especially if it’s really tattered, mildewy or moldy, probably no one else wants it, either.

In most of Oregon (not the High Desert, central and Eastern sections of the state), man does it get wet. So the Little Free Libraries, which are mostly outdoor, freestanding structures, can get musty and damp. Which is hell on books. So please rotate those collections, and replace the structures when needed. One of our neighborhood LFLs had a massive infestation of yellow jackets.

So that was fun, too.

This public service announcement brought to you by moi, WM.

Bon appetit!