Understanding Hillary

Orange-red toned photographic image of a young woman, Hillary Rodham, in her 20s.

By Cherise T.

An alternative Hillary universe is one many of us have contemplated often since 2016. Sittenfeld’s Rodham offers ample facts within the reimagined history to satisfy both political junkies and historical fiction lovers. The writing is solidly engaging, creating a Hillary that in many ways I felt I knew. 

The story opens possibilities that actual events have not allowed. Have you wondered about Hillary’s personal thoughts regarding Bill Clinton and his behavior? The mix of true historical figures and close-enough stand-ins urges the reader to think about the complicated decisions we all have to make in our lives. The links the author constructs between Hillary’s childhood, family, and education and her choices of relationships and political ambitions are fascinating. Unfortunately, speculation into the sources of her policy opinions is too limited. (The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power is a wonderful nonfiction study of Hillary Clinton’s years as Secretary of State for those readers seeking more insight into her diplomatic actions. Authored by a journalist who travelled with Clinton, Kim Ghattas, the book provides Ghattas’s unique perspective as a Lebanese immigrant to the United States.)

Sittenfeld previously reimagined another political couple in American Wife (also available in eaudiobook). Said to be modeled after the story of Laura and George Bush, that novel includes intimate details of the couple’s life that made me feel uncomfortably privy to private, personal thoughts and actions. In Rodham, the storytelling and background research is again so good that I believed I was getting to know Hillary beyond her public persona. She’s a notably different personality than the protagonist in American Wife because Sittenfeld supplies the dialogue, settings, thoughts, dreams and even clothes that put the reader right beside Hillary. Rodham tells Hillary’s story with just the right amount of flashback and linear chronology to appeal to both those fiction readers who want a plot twist and those who crave a character study.

I’m fantasizing about a future author book talk with Hillary Rodham Clinton in conversation with Curtis Sittenfeld.

Rodham is also available from HCLS as an ebook and eaudiobook from OverDrive/Libby, and as a book on CD. There is a short waiting list for the physical book, but you may reserve it.

Cherise Tasker is an Adult Instructor and Research Specialist at the Central Branch. When not immersed in literary fiction, Cherise can be found singing along to musical theater soundtracks.

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