The Perfect Wife: The Life and Choices of Laura Bush By Ann Gerhart Simn & Schuster, $23.00
Consider the curious case of Laura and George Bush, in which the adage that opposites attract is taken to its logical extreme. She is a modest and dignified former librarian, whose best friends are progressive Democrats, and who loves nothing better than to putter in her garden. She is known for her uncanny ability to sit perfectly still in public. He is, well, he's Dubya: the brash hell-raiser, the often-elitist and proudly anti-intellectual conservative Republican whom Americans have come to know and, in some cases, love. Her favorite book is The Brothers Karamazov. His is the Bible. In her 20s, she taught in a ghetto school. In his 20s, he was, in his own words, "young and irresponsible." She's fascinated by the world's cultures. He poked fun at a journalist who spoke French to Jacques Chirac.
Washington Post reporter Ann Gerhart's book deftly answers all sorts of questions about this odd couple's relationship. But well-reported and perceptive as it is, her book can't help but leave readers with an unanswerable question: What on earth is she doing with him? Physical attraction is one thing--Gethart details the "crackling chemistry" between these two attractive people who became engaged only six weeks after their first date, and married only six weeks after that. But don't spouses normally have quite a bit more in common than the sane junior high school in Midland, Texas?
The Perfect Wife is a short, breezy, guilty pleasure of a book, full of juicy quotes mad anecdotes that will remind the reader that its author once wrote the Post's "Reliable Source" gossip column. Gerhart clearly admires Laura Bush, whom she has covered since 2001. She praises her warmth, sincerity, intelligence, and loyalty. But this is no valentine to the First Lady. Gerhart offers an unflinchingly clear-eyed view of her subject's foibles--never more so than when she describes the permissive, love-blinded parenting that has produced two of the worst-behaved offspring the White House has ever seen. Gerhart portrays the Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara, as careless young women who have used their Secret Service agents to tote their bags and arrange meetings with celebrities, when they aren't trying to elude their protection altogether. "These girls have all the noblesse and none of the oblige," is Gerhart's pithy assessment.
Over and beyond the engaging portrait of Laura Bush and...