Friday, June 12, 2015

Book Review: The Astronaut Wives Club, Lily Koppel

Hi there!  I'm back with a quick book review.

Hubby said it looks like the wives are standing around a Tide bottle.  Ha ha...

I absolutely loved Lily Koppel's book The Astronaut Wives Club.  In the book Lily Koppel chronicles the unique experience of being an astronaut's wife.  The stories are in many ways typical of the times though.   The ladies felt pressure to conform to the ideal 1950's housewife- always looking her best, being supportive of her husband (regardless of his behavior), keeping a clean home, and  raising respectful and well behaved children.  But in other ways the wives were held to an even higher standard.  They were living on their husbands military wages so while their husbands spend time away at NASA or Cape Canaveral they were expected to live this perfect life without hired help.  And then they were launched into their own orbit of press interviews and publicity tours.  As women often do they turned to each other for support (from choosing the perfect lipstick color for their first Life magazine cover to dealing with the "Cape cookies") but it wasn't until much later at their reunions that they are completely honest about their experiences.  The wives were expected to be a bit formal during the hard times even with each other.

If you have any interest in the American space program read this book.  It's more than the facts and figures of the space missions.  It details the astronauts as people- from the perspective of their wives.  Lily presents the stories in such a way that really captures the feeling of the times.  She also includes pictures.  (Can I tell you these ladies had taste!!  And on a military budget.  Well the Mercury ladies got some help from Lawrence Marcus of the Neiman Marcus Department store.)  Some of the pictures are mundane; two mothers sitting poolside with their toddlers, a wife and her astronaut reading the paper over breakfast.  But others capture the nail biting and chain smoking that often accompanies a husband's launch.

The ABC television network is set to premier a tv version of this book on June 18th.  Honestly I'm a little skeptical.  The promos I've seen look a little hokey.  I'm planning to watch it though.  As you know I love the 1950/1960 time period.  It's just that while Lily Koppel's book honors the wives and their role in the Space Race the tv show looks like it's making characters of them.  Stereotypical characters.  Blah!  I hope I'm wrong.


  1. I wasn't crazy about the tv promos either but since you loved Mad Men maybe this can be a period replacement for you. ;)

    I would not have read the book solely on those promos but your review makes me want to get the book. Sounds so interesting! Thanks Sarah. :)

    1. Aileen, I really wanted to read the book because the promos looked so overdone. I wanted to get the real story. I found it at our library. Maybe yours would have it? I also saw it Costco last year.