laura bush, a decent lady


One of Laura Bush’s best qualities as a memoirist — and she is a particularly fine, lyrical one — is her ability to speak the language of feelings without recourse to cant or contemporary psychobabble. Partly, that may reflect her deep — and deeply appreciated — roots in the hardscrabble West Texas oil country where she grew up. Partly, it probably reflects her deep reading and obvious appreciation of great literature, something that surfaces here again and again, though always unselfconsciously. She was, after all, the bookish only child of a doting father and bookish mother, and would go on to become a teacher of inner-city children and, later, a librarian trained at the University of Texas’ great school of that so painfully underappreciated vocation. The former first lady has written two actual memoirs in this book. The first, more compelling of the two concerns her girlhood in Midland, Texas, and her life up until her husband decided to run for president, a decision she signed onto with some reluctance. (She clearly would have preferred an earlier retreat to the ranch she so loves in Crawford.) The first section is rich in elegantly recounted detail; the second has a somewhat flat and, often, detached tone — except in a few crucial instances. Even so, the account of her eight tumultuous years in the White House is singularly free of the mean-spiritedness and payback that has become a routine feature of contemporary political memoirs.

more from Tim Rutten at the LAT here.