Tuesday, May 24, 2022


WWW. WEDNESDAY asks three questions to prompt you to speak bookishly. To participate, and to see how other book lovers responded, click here.  

1. What are you currently reading? First Ladies: The Ever-Changing Role from Martha Washington to Melania Trump by Betty Boyd Caroli. I love reading about our First Ladies because I believe you can tell a lot about someone by the partner they choose ... and because they reflect what America expects of women at any given time in history ... and, since the job is so ill-defined, it's cool to see where each woman's imagination and talent take her.

This book satisfies me on all counts. We've had 46 Presidents, and each one has had a hostess at his elbow for public events. The book is about 500 pages, so it can't dive very deep into any of these women. As Caroli says at the outset, she scrimps on some who have received much attention (for example, JBKO -- pictured above reading on the hood of her car -- has 600+ listings on Amazon; Eleanor Roosevelt has her beat with more than 900) to shine a light on those that history and pop culture have overlooked. The book also discusses women like Harriet Lane, who was not married to a President but still presided over the White House.

So far, I am intrigued by the phenomenon of "invalidism" of upper class 19th century American women, as represented by the majority of our First Ladies. Exhaustion, painful limbs, chronic colds ... all kept them from performing public duties -- and the attendant harsh public scrutiny -- for months at a time, and the nation seemed to accept this unblinkingly. (Mary Lincoln, Sarah Polk, and Julia Grant were notable exceptions.) The author wonders if this "invalidism" wasn't the only way these women had to rebel. They couldn't control their lives, or the spotlight their ambitious husbands thrust them into, but they could control their bodies.

Betty Boyd Caroli is an entertaining story teller. If you have an inner nerd, you may enjoy this. I am!

2. What did you just finish reading? The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle. Iris, a school guidance counselor, and Will, an IT wizard, have been happily married for seven years. As the book opens, they agree they are ready to add a child to their family. To celebrate, Will gives Iris a ring from Tiffany's. It's like this is the best their life will ever be.

It is.

Will boards a plane at Hartsfield airport. A plane that left Hartsfield goes down. Was he on it? Who is responsible for the crash? Iris' denial, her refusal to believe her beloved Will is dead, takes her places she wishes she hadn't gone. Did her husband have a secret life? Does it matter?

This book fascinated me. It's not only an engrossing domestic thriller, it's an understated study of our reactions to tragedies and grief. I recommend it.

3. What will you read next? A mystery.