The Perfect Wife
The Life and Choices of Laura Bush
Ann Gerhart of The Washington Post has covered Mrs. Bush since 2001, and no other reporter has interviewed the First Lady more often. Through this unparalleled access Gerhart has been able to uncover the woman behind the carefully maintained image. Far more than an uncomplicated maternal figure and dedicated wife, Laura Bush emerges as a complex and fascinating woman in her own right, who has composed a life of accomplishment for herself alongside her husband's tremendous ambitions.
The Perfect Wife tells the complete story from Mrs. Bush's upbringing to her whirlwind three-month courtship by George W. Bush and her role as a mother, wife, and public figure. An only child raised in a segregated and fiercely traditional West Texas town, she is less conservative than her husband and appealingly down-to-earth despite the extraordinary privileges of her position. Two tragedies have defined her: a car accident when she was seventeen and September 11, when she suddenly had to transform her job and take herself far more seriously. Ann Gerhart examines the First Lady's influences and motivations, reveals the depths to which her husband relies upon her, and assesses her achievements. Compelling and insightful, this is the first comprehensive account of a woman who has won the admiration of the nation and of the compromises and challenges that come with taking on the most examined volunteer job in the world.
Read an Excerpt
We feel really fortunate to have grown up in West Texas where I think values are really rock solid. It's not very easy to be pretentious....West Texans will call you down immediately. I think that gave us a really solid base.
-- Laura Bush, in the Midland Star-Telegram, September 5, 2002
She was seventeen, a few days past her birthday in her senior year, a girl with her daddy's car keys. There was a party, on a weeknight. That wasn't much the sort of thing Jenna and Harold Welch let their girl do, go to a party in the middle of the week. But really, Laura was such a good girl, this only... see more
Reading Group Guide
1. What did the title of this book, The Perfect Wife, lead you to think about this biography? Before reading the book did you presume that the author had a particular opinion of Laura Bush? What do you think of the author's opinion now? What kind of woman would you consider a "perfect wife"? Which of Laura's characteristics do you believe the author wanted to call attention to with that description?
2. The biography begins with the tragic death of Laura's classmate. Why do you think the author chose to start at that point in Laura's life? How might the accident have affected the demeanor Laura adopted in later years and the choices she made in her life?
3. The town Laura grew up in, Midland, Texas, of the 1960s, was a deeply segregated community. There were limited opportunities for minorities and for women. How do you think that environment affected Laura Bush? Think about the schools she chose to teach in as well as her choice of career. Also, how do you think her childhood impressions of marriage and the roles of women affect her relationship with George as her husband and as President? To what extent do you believe she adopted the attitudes modeled for her in her childhood, and to what extent has she charted a new course for herself?
4. The author notes that Laura gave up her teaching career when she married George. She also quotes Margaret LaMontagne Spellings, Bush's domestic policy adviser, who offere see more