Author: Lily Koppel
Read: April 1, 2014
Summary: 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. goodreads
Review: As an 80's baby, I was obviously not around for the Space Race. I also don't remember learning much about it while in school either. I'm sure it was touched on but I had zero idea what actually happened. All I knew of was Neil Armstrong and his famous quote. Apollo 13 added to that info many years later, but all in all, my knowledge of this time was abysmal. Luckily, Lily Koppel put together a book about the only aspect of this period that would actually catch my interest enough to read about: Housewives!
Personally, I aspire to be a housewife and the best one I can be. I also tend to overindulge in the Real Housewives reality TV series and am aware that my idea of my future, and those crazy ladies, are not the same type of housewife. Then I get to throw in the Astronaut wives definition of a housewife in the ring and I have a lot of different versions of the same thing.
When I think of the ladies who were the wives of the astronauts, originally I pictured 50's housewife. After reading this collection of stories, I realize that these women were much more liberated and independent than the 50s. I loved hearing about how they viewed themselves, each other, and society. It is very interesting to learn how this bubble of women went from normal civilians on limited budgets to essentially, celebrities over night and how they handled this. Some of the astronauts were good men who took care of their wives while others were philandering ass holes. Despite who their husbands were, these women had to be very strong and navigate their way through this time on their own and with each other.
I love that these women created little groups for support and it makes sense that they would be protective of their way of life to newcomers. I think each group had to find their own way to cope with various stressors but the main support was the same for all of them: each other. Girl power, ladies!
The one negative thing that I will say is that it is hard to differentiate between all of the different wives at times. There were a lot of them and the story jumped back and forth between them all quite a lot. I couldn't keep them straight to be honest. There are a lot of little anecdotes which I think tell us more about the women but it is still very dry info at best. I would have liked to get to know a few of the ladies better and just focused on them rather than everything over the span of a decade but overall, it was enjoyable.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a different aspect of the space race, anyone who loves a good story about a housewife, and anyone who loves a good piece of juicy gossip (very proper gossip, mind you.) There are also some great pictures at the end that you can reference as you get to know the various ladies better. Check it out!