The Perfect Wife

The Life and Choices of Laura Bush

The Perfect Wife

Laura Bush is arguably the most popular figure in the Bush White House. Even the President's detractors would not hesitate to describe the First Lady as utterly sincere and devoted to family and country, whether she is advocating on behalf of education and libraries or comforting the nation in times of crisis.
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.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 224 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743265263 | 
  • January 2004
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide for The Perfect Wife
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

About the Author

Ann Gerhart
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Ann Gerhart

Ann Gerhart, a veteran reporter for the Style section of The Washington Post, covered the 2004 Presidential campaign. She has interviewed Laura Bush extensively since 2001 and has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, CBS News, C-Span, Fox News, A&E, and VH1 to discuss the First Lady. She lives with her husband and three children in Bethesda, Maryland.