“Emily in Paris meets Scandal” (The New York Times) in this propulsive Cold War-era political thriller as one intrepid journalist writes the official biography of the mysterious First Lady—uncovering secrets that could destroy them both.
Tired of covering the grating dysfunction of Washington and the increasingly outrageous antics of President Henry Caine, White House correspondent Sofie Morse quits her job and plans to leave politics behind. But when she gets a call from the office of First Lady Lara Caine, asking Sofie to come in for a private meeting with Lara, her curiosity is piqued. Sofie, like the rest of the world, knows little about Lara—only that Lara was born in Soviet Russia, raised in Paris, and worked as a model before moving to America and marrying the notoriously brash future president.
When Lara asks Sofie to write her official biography, and to finally fill in the gaps of her history, Sofie’s curiosity gets the better of her. She begins to spend more and more time in the White House, slowly developing a bond with Lara—and eventually a deep and surprising friendship with her.
Even more surprising to Sofie is the fact that Lara is entirely candid about her mysterious past. The First Lady doesn’t hesitate to speak about her beloved father’s work as an undercover KGB officer in Paris—and how he wasn’t the only person in her family working undercover during the Cold War.
As Lara’s story unfolds, Sofie can’t help but wonder why Lara is rehashing such sensitive information. Why to her? And why now? Suddenly Sofie is in the middle of a game of cat and mouse that could have explosive ramifications.
For fans of The Secrets We Kept and American Wife, Our American Friend is a propulsive Cold War-era spy thriller crossed with a fictional biography of a First Lady. Spanning from the 1970s to the present day, traveling from Moscow and Paris to Washington and New York, Anna Pitoniak’s novel is a gripping page-turner—and a devastating love story—about power and complicity and how sometimes, the fate of the world is in the hands of the people you’d never expect.
Pitoniak (The Futures) capitalizes on the stranger-than-fiction Trump White House with this tepid story of a Russian-born first lady. The elusive Lara Caine Russian wife of brash, dangerous president Henry Caine surprises journalist Sofie Morse by asking Sofie to write her biography. Sofie, who's just left her job as a reporter covering the machinations and reelection of the unpalatable POTUS, is suspicious: Lara's past, as well as her political ideology, is a mystery. But the opportunity is too tempting to pass up, and Sofie lays her professional scruples aside and is soon drawn into Lara's inner circle. She meets Lara's Russian mother and sister and becomes dangerously invested in the story Lara tells of her youth and of her tragic love affair with a young dissident and its tragic repercussions. Sofie is torn between her job as an authorized biographer and her instincts as a journalist to remain objective, and the professional decisions she makes land her in the center of some serious international intrigue. The narrative alternates between Lara's reminiscences and Sofie's efforts to make sense of her claims, with little tension and a cast of rather stock characters, though Pitoniak's account of palace intrigue has its entertaining moments. This will keep readers turning the pages, but it's not particularly thrilling or deep.