Published June 2013 by Grand Central Publishing
Source: I bought this one to read with The Omaha Bookworms
As America's Mercury Seven astronauts were launched on death-defying missions, television cameras focused on the brave smiles of their young wives. Overnight, these women were transformed from military spouses into American royalty. They had tea with Jackie Kennedy, appeared on the cover of Life magazine, and quickly grew into fashion icons.
Annie Glenn, with her picture-perfect marriage, was the envy of the other wives; platinum-blonde Rene Carpenter was proclaimed JFK's favorite; and licensed pilot Trudy Cooper arrived on base with a secret. Together with the other wives they formed the Astronaut Wives Club, meeting regularly to provide support and friendship. Many became next-door neighbors and helped to raise each other's children by day, while going to glam parties at night as the country raced to land a man on the Moon.
As their celebrity rose-and as divorce and tragic death began to touch their lives-they continued to rally together, and the wives have now been friends for more than fifty years. THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB tells the real story of the women who stood beside some of the biggest heroes in American history.
This is one of those books that you know from the moment you first hear of it, you will read it, not that you just want to read it. One of my most vivid childhood memories is sitting in front of a console television set at the home of family friends to watch men land on the moon. One of my all-time favorite books is Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff and I adore the movie it was adapted into. I knew the names of the wives of the first Mercury astronauts and was eager to learn more about their side of the story.
|Neighbors peering into the home of Jim Lovell, Apollo 13|
All of that being said, there are a number of problems with The Astronaut Wives Club. There are a lot of astronaut families and while it may not be fair to say so, not all of them are equally interesting. Neither was the minutiae of the families' lives. It was enough to know that these people lived good lives thanks to the money they received from LIFE magazine and all of the other perks they received. It was interesting to learn how the "important" people wanted to welcome them into their lives but readers don't need the details of every event. A tighter focus would have made for a better book.
|Scott Carpenter and daughter|
When it came time to choose a book for the Omaha Bookworms now annual multi-generational selection, I picked this one for the group thinking it would be interesting to get the opinion of those who might remember those heady days of the space race better. My parents were among those who read this book with us.
My dad says he well remembers "how squeaky clean those first astronauts and their wives looked and sounded when they were presented to us more than half a century ago." He was interested, as was I, to learn "how NASA and LIFE magazine crafted that image out of whole cloth." He added it was "comforting to know what I should have suspected all along - that they were human beings just like the rest of us, with many of the same fears, weaknesses, jealousy, and pettiness that motivate most of us." Very true, and I'm sure more so for readers who remember this time in history.