Laura Bush's 'Spoken From the Heart': A Review

Laura Bush never interested me much until Curtis Sittenfeld wrote an addictively readable novel based on her, American Wife. As I read Spoken From the Heart, passages from American Wife echoed in my head. Wow, I thought, Sittenfeld really nailed her.

Ever correct, Laura Bush does not mention Sittenfeld’s novel, or much else that she finds distasteful. As First Lady, she quietly pursued the causes that mattered to her — literacy, the plight of Afghan women — but remained largely in her husband’s shadow. Here she emerges, in fitful snatches, as a bookish, brainy, nervous woman, haunted by the car accident she caused at 17, which killed a classmate. “It is a guilt I will carry for the rest of my life, far more visible to me than the scar etched in the bump of my knee,” she writes.

The early stretches of Heart will resonate with anyone who grew up in small-town America. Midland, Tex., Bush writes, was “a place of ice cream sundaes…and Saturday morning pony rides.” She was 31 when she married George Bush there, leading one town biddy to remark, “Can you imagine? The most eligible bachelor in Midland marrying the old maid of Midland?”

The rest of the book lacks the sweetness and poignancy of these first pages. It becomes a weary recitation of trips taken, dresses worn, meals eaten — nothing more. For a
woman devoted to her family, Bush has  reveals little about her children and nothing new about her husband (though she alludes to a few personal differences, saying, “I had talked to George about not making gay marriage a significant issue” in the 2004 campaign). She does manage to neatly disembowel her mother-in-law, Barbara: “When I married George, I had thought I would be embraced by his mother every bit as much as he was embraced by mine…. What I came to see ultimately as our bond was that we both loved George…. Beyond that, we had little contact.” What it boils down to is this: Anyone who wants to know what makes Laura Bush tick will come away disappointed. The intensely private former First Lady seems almost a shadowy spectator in her own memoir. B-

Comments (45 total) Add your comment
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  • wakeforce

    I doubt many people will be interested in this book. The one people will want to read is her husband’s. How will he defend his presidency? That’s the real story here.

    • Cheryl

      Very true…..the interesting story will be how Bush will defend his Presidency. But you know with all their power and money, they will have history books written to their liking.

  • Fatima

    I’ve never had a problem with Laura Bush, but she looks crazy on that cover.

    • m

      lol, she does look a little crazy!

      • Cheryl

        Yes she does and her daughter Jenna has the same ‘eyes’

    • Ethan

      Careful what you say – Crazy Laura Bush puts thought-sensitive laser beams in every creepy evil cover that gets produced.

    • Lisa

      Did you guys know that Laura has serious eye problems, and is nearly blind without her glasses/contacts? It is the contacts that give her that “look”.
      Really, have a little compassion, geez.

  • Luddite

    Sittenfield’s “American Wife” was incredible. This sounds kind of interesting, but not something I feel like I NEED to read.

  • CiCi

    She always looks a bit high or deranged in photos, or as we used to call her ‘Crazy Eyes’.
    Its about time she discussed murdering that student. Too bad she waited until AFTER retiring. Seems that the Gov’t put a restriction on media coverage of it earlier. Too bad. Maybe we might have had a Bushless White House if people had known.

    • Brooke

      I don’t think people ever DIDN’T know. It was always common knowledge, even though the press didn’t write much about it. If Bush’s actions in his first term didn’t stop people from re-electing him, I really doubt that something his wife did when she was a teenager would have made any difference.

  • Matt

    I normally hate those people who point out grammatical errors, but hey, what the hell, I’ll give it a shot. There should be no “has” in “Bush has reveals little about her children…”

    • Thanks

      We all saw, Matt…no need to comment

      • Cheryl


  • Ed

    While I had countless problems with her husband, I always liked Laura Bush. What I don’t like, however, is the title of her book. Spoken from the Heart? Really? It sounds like a cheesy romance novel.

  • Freddy

    Of course, liberals would give her a bad review. Laura Bush always was a very class first lady unlike certain unbeautiful big egomaniac.

    • Problem

      ‘Bad’ review = liberal reviewer? When you’re able to emerge from your red/blue drama, Freddy, there’s a really great country here that’s ready to engage with you.

  • Andrea

    Though I never liked GWB — and by the end of the 8 years, disliked him pretty intensely, for whatever reason I always found Mrs. Bush an appealing and likable first lady. I am a proud card-carrying liberal but I don’t think there was any cover-up regarding the accident. It happened, it was horrible and tragic, the end. I will say (as other people have pointed out) that the media (esp FOX) would have had a field day if a Democratic presidential candidate’s wife was the one who’d been in a fatal car accident and at fault (accidental fault). I don’t think people would have tread so carefully.
    That said, if she feels she has something to say and share, by all means I’m glad she wrote this, if only for her own sake and peace of mind.

    • Cheryl

      I feel you are absolutely correct when you said “if a Democratic presidential candidate’s wife was the one who’d been in a fatal car accident and at fault (accidental fault). I don’t think people would have tread so carefully.”

  • Clete

    Another in a long line of celebrity bio’s. Whoopee, something else to avoid.

    • Cheryl

      I agree Clete, this is a book to avoid.

  • Pisces228

    I think bios are a good thing. A lot of people today might choose not to read it because we lived through it. But 50, 100 years down the road, there will be people looking back, wanting to know about our time. This book, along with many others, will help paint the complete picture for those seeking knowledge.

    • Cheryl

      This book of hers will help paint a complete picture of how the wealthy lived in our country and that is all.

      • Lisa

        Cheryl, I can’t tell from your comments, but have you actually read this book? It tells nothing about the lifestyle of the wealthy–in fact, the whole first half was about a very ordinary, sometimes struggling, middle class family.

        Really, your prejudices are showing way too much in your comments.

    • Aggie

      When they left, I felt as if I had lost my arms. I was so sad that I lost my appetite .Al-Maghrabi then flew to Manila to look for two other Filipino woekrrs to replace the ones who had left. Previously, he had tried woekrrs of different nationalities but they did not impress him. There is no comparison between Filipinos and others , he says. Whenever I see Filipinos working in the Kingdom, I wonder what our life would be without them.Saudi Arabia has the largest number of Filipino woekrrs 1,019,577 outside the Philippines. In 2006 alone, the Kingdom recruited more than 223,000 woekrrs from the Philippines and their numbers are still increasing. Filipinos not only play an important and effective role in the Kingdom, they also perform different jobs in countries across the world, including working as sailors.They are known for their professionalism and the quality of their work.Nobody here can think of a life without Filipinos, who make up around 20 percent of the world’99s seafarers. There are 1.2 millionFilipino sailors.So if Filipinos decided one day to stop working or go on strike for any reason, who would transport oil, food and heavy equipment across the world? We can only imagine the disaster that would happen.What makes Filipinos unique is their ability to speak very good English and the technical training they receive in the early stages of their education. There are several specialized training institutes in the Philippines, including those specializing in engineering and road maintenance. This training background makes them highly competent in these vital areas.When speaking about the Philippines, we should not forget Filipino nurses. They are some 23 percent of the world’s total number of nurses. The Philippines is home to over 190 accredited nursing colleges and institutes, from which some 9,000 nurses graduateeach year. Many of them work abroad in countries such as the US, the UK, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Singapore.Cathy Ann, a 35-year-old Filipino nurse who has been working in the Kingdom for the last five years and before that in Singapore, said she does not feel homesick abroad because I am surrounded by my compatriots everywhere.Ann thinks that early training allows Filipinos to excel in nursing and other vocations. She started learning this profession at the age of four as her aunt, anurse, used to take her to hospital and ask her to watch the work. She used to kiss me whenever I learned a new thing. At the age of 11, I could do a lot. I began doing things like measuring my grandfather’s blood pressure and giving my mother her insulin injections, she said.This type of early education system is lacking in the Kingdom. Many of our children reach the university stage without learning anything except boredom.The Philippines, which you can barely see on the map, is a very effective country thanks to its people. It has the ability to influence the entire world economy.We should pay respect to Filipino woekrrs, not only by employing them but also by learning from their valuable experiences.We should learn and educate our children on how to operate and maintain ships and oil tankers, as well as planning and nursing and how to achieve perfection in our work. This is a must so that we do not become like Muhammad Al-Maghrabi who lost his interest and appetite when Filipino woekrrs left his flower shop.We have to remember that we are very much dependent on the Filipinos around us. We could die a slow death if they chose to leave us .Hey! isn’t it enough for us to be a proud filipino? If you are a real filipino,you can feel it!And to the non-filipinos,think about it.

  • T2

    I’m looking forward to reading it. She is a lady that always carries herself with class. There’s something to be said for that in this day and age where everyone thinks it’s okay to go public about what married man they’re screwing. It’s not necessary for us to know every detail about her life. Does everyone know every detail of yours, and would you want them to?

  • Brandy

    “Murdering” that student? She wasn’t drunk, she was careless and thoughtless like most teenagers. With the amount of texting crashes and deaths on the rise, we are going to see a lot more of this issue. Kids are horrible, irresponsible drivers and do cause a tremendous amount of accidents but I don’t think we should label Laura Bush a murderer.

  • Malcom

    And if this was a book by Michelle Obama I’m sure Tina’s Jordan’s hair would stand on end and she would be screaming from rooftops it was something worthy of a Pulitzer. Liberal media will continue to hate on the Bushes till time ends. It was actually surprising to see the former First Lady on Oprah today who gushed over the book and essentially sang it’s praises pointing to all the insights the normally private First Lady shared. I’ll come back in 4 1/2 yrs to see what Ms. Jordan has to say about Mrs. Obama’s book.

  • Cheryl

    I love reading….but I wouldn’t read Laura’s book even if I received it as a gift. Living in these difficult times, where millions have lost their jobs and their homes and then she comes along with a book that she would like people to buy and read. Please! I personally don’t want to hear how the rich and famous live. Her daughter said on Oprah’s show that they don’t cook meals, they have cooks that prepare their meals. I don’t care to spend my hard earned money on her. When I have to struggle to feed my family, pay bills and try to hand onto my home. If I was given her book as a gift I would use it in my woodburning fireplace to heat my home. Thanks for letting me vent!

    • Cheryl

      Sorry I had a ‘typo’ and try to hand onto my home. Should have been ‘and try to HANG onto my home’

    • Pamela K Wild

      Cheryl, you should really refrain from commenting on things you know NOTHING about. Read the book and then you have the right to criticize it!!!!!

  • Lisa

    I really enjoyed the first half of the book,and for that alone it was worth reading. I agree with the reviewer’s take that the second half of the book was just a recitation of all the things she had accomplished as First Lady–impressive, to be sure, but not written in such a way as to be interesting reading.

    However, the book shows us that Laura was an educated, self-sufficient career women during a time when most women married right out of high school, never went to college, and certainly never had a career. This prepared her for the roles she would play as a public servant (which she was in her own right, even though not an elected politican), as she had developed insights, passions and a sense of mission that she tackled with zeal. She can now certainly go to bed each night with a sense that she has contributed a lot of good to the world.

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