In 1971, Hillary Rodham is a young woman full of promise: Life magazine has covered her Wellesley commencement speech, she’s attending Yale Law School, and she’s on the forefront of student activism and the women’s rights movement. And then she meets Bill Clinton. A handsome, charismatic southerner and fellow law student, Bill is already planning his political career. In each other, the two find a profound intellectual, emotional, and physical connection that neither has previously experienced.
In the real world, Hillary followed Bill back to Arkansas, and he proposed several times; although she said no more than once, as we all know, she eventually accepted and became Hillary Clinton.
But in Curtis Sittenfeld’s powerfully imagined tour-de-force of fiction, Hillary takes a different road. Feeling doubt about the prospective marriage, she endures their devastating breakup and leaves Arkansas. Over the next four decades, she blazes her own trail—one that unfolds in public as well as in private, that involves crossing paths again (and again) with Bill Clinton, that raises questions about the trade-offs all of us must make in building a life.
Brilliantly weaving a riveting fictional tale into actual historical events, Curtis Sittenfeld delivers an uncannily astute and witty story for our times. In exploring the loneliness, moral ambivalence, and iron determination that characterize the quest for political power, as well as both the exhilaration and painful compromises demanded of female ambition in a world still run mostly by men, Rodham is a singular and unforgettable novel.
For the last four years, I have been focused more on politics than ever before, primarily because of events that seemingly toppled our world with Hillary Clinton’s “loss” to Trump.
Rodham is a book I couldn’t wait to start reading, wondering how the fictionalized world of Hillary would shape up and answer some of my own questions about the “what ifs” in life.
In some ways, I felt sad for how Hillary and Bill took separate pathways in this “reimagined” universe, as they had become an unbreakable “pair” in my mind. But as I followed the journey outlined in Sittenfeld’s novel, I became more and more intrigued.
What if everything had turned out as it does in Sittenfeld’s universe? Wouldn’t it have been wonderful?
There were humorous moments in the book, as Hillary’s imagined first meetings with Donald Trump seemed extremely possible and reflected how many of us view that man.
Then the pathways take another twist, and I enjoyed the scenes of how Hillary’s fictionalized world included bantering with friends about predestination, expressing how other lives could have unfolded if we all had had slightly different circumstances.
I found myself wishing for those alternate worlds. A 5 star read.