The Astronaut Wives Club

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Astronaut Wives Club
by Lily Koppel

During the 1950 and ‘60s the space race was in full swing. The astronauts who took those huge leaps for mankind became celebrities around the world. This book is the true story of the women who stood behind the men on the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions.

Those alive during those decades might remember some of the names mentioned in the book. I had no idea that the women were under such public scrutiny. Their photos were in Life magazine along with personal tidbits about every aspect of their lives. Like politicians and movie stars, their lives became public domain as Americans clamored for more information about the men behind the space suits. Life magazine even had reporters in their homes while their husbands’ lives hung in the balance on various flights.

Koppel gives the dirty details about the clothes, the fights, and the quirks of the women, but there was certainly a darker side to the story as well. Many of the men were cheating on their wives and multiple marriages ended in divorce. Others ended when something went wrong on a mission and men were lost. The public grieving that followed was painful to read about.

It’s funny, when thinking about astronauts and their incredible courage and accomplishments; I don’t think I’ve ever reflected on the women who stood behind them. How terrifying that must have been to watch your husband be shot off into space in a rocket!

BOTTOM LINE: I really enjoyed learning more about the women behind those famous men. My one complaint is that they tended to all blend together for me.  The author jumps between groups of women and it was hard to distinguish one from another.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I can see that. Even when I read a book about four women let's say, I get them confused unless they are really distinct. This book does interest me. I can't even imagine the stress and anxiety they went through.

Meg @ write meg! said...

This one has been on my radar for a while -- I've been getting so into non-fiction and space, so it seems like a natural fit! As Sandy also mentioned, I can see finding it hard to distinguish between the women . . . I struggle with that whenever a group of ladies are discussed, especially if they're in similar stages of life. I'm sure I'll grab this one sometime!

Anonymous said...

I remember reading The Right Stuff in high school, and then seeing the movie - where they did touch briefly on the experiences of the wives. I've always found their stories to be compelling, so I'll have to add this one to my to-read list.

Allison said...

Reading about astronauts is a recent obsession of mine - I definitely need to track down a copy of this one!

JoAnn said...

I checked this out of the library shortly after it was released, but never got a chance to read it. The author's earlier book, The Red Leather Diary, was wonderful... I suppose I should borrow this one again.

Anonymous said...

I'd heard of this one & think I may give it a try. I love reading about the (early) space program and have read many astronaut biographies but don't know much about their better halves. Maybe I'll buy it for Mom and let her read it first? :-)

Andi said...

SO glad you liked this one! I adored it and sucked it all down in one day. I still remember it vividly, and I'm sure I'll revisit it one day.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - The thing that struck me is that the danger is about the same as their husbands going off to war, but people treat it like a huge privledge. So if the wife is scared it's seen in a different way.

Meg - It was a great one to scratch my nonfiction itch.

Carrie - Being an astronaut is such an incredible thing, but I can't imagine how terrifying it would be for your family.

Allison - This one actually made me more curious to read about the astronauts themselves too!

JoAnn - I hadn't heard of The Red Leather Diary, worth reading?

bibliophilica - Definitely, this would be a great Mother's Day gift for a reader!

Andi - I definitely read this one because of your rave review and I'm glad I did!