The Astronaut Wives Club
A True Story
Discover the true story of the women who stood beside some of the greatest heroes of American space travel in this New York Times bestseller that delivers "a truly great snapshot of the times" (Publishers Weekly) that inspired a limited TV series on ABC!
As America's Mercury Seven astronauts were launched on death-defying missions, television cameras focused on the brave smiles of their young wives. Overnight, these women were transformed from military spouses into American royalty. They had tea with Jackie Kennedy, appeared on the cover of Life magazine, and quickly grew into fashion icons.
Annie Glenn, with her picture-perfect marriage, was the envy of the other wives; JFK made it clear that platinum-blonde Rene Carpenter was his favorite; and licensed pilot Trudy Cooper arrived with a secret that needed to stay hidden from NASA. Together with the other wives they formed the Astronaut Wives Club, providing one another with support and friendship, coffee and cocktails.
As their celebrity rose--and as divorce and tragedy began to touch their lives--the wives continued to rally together, forming bonds that would withstand the test of time, and they have stayed friends for over half a century.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
From the dawn of the U.S. space program, astronauts have been lionized as quintessential American heroes. But what, asks author Lily Koppel, about their wives? Left behind to maintain their households while their husbands hurtled dangerously into space, the wives of the earliest spacemen found themselves unexpectedly transformed into national celebrities, appearing on glamorous magazine covers as their private lives became public fodder—The Real Housewives of NASA, if you will. Now, for the first time, these women speak out and tell their sides of the story. The Astronaut Wives Club is simultaneously a Mad Men-style snapshot of a bygone era, a vital social and cultural history lesson, and a gossipy, endlessly fascinating beach read.
In this entertaining and quirky throwback, journalist Koppel (The Red Leather Diary) revisits the ladies who cheered and bolstered their men to victory in the U.S. space program from the late '50s through early 1970s, revealing public triumph and rarely private agony. Koppel looks at the history of the race to space, starting with the Mercury Seven of April 1959, and focusing on the wives: e.g., Louise Shepard (wife of Alan), Betty Grissom (Gus) and Annie Glenn (John), young women who wore teased hair, bright lipstick, and cat-eye sunglasses, and towed numerous small children. The wives had to be gracious to the Life magazine reporters who invaded their homes, concealing unpleasant domestic details, such as marital discord, philandering husbands, and unseemly competition with other wives. The wives were invited to live at or near the Langley, Va., Air Force base, where the astronauts trained before relocating to Houston (aka Space City, USA) in 1962; the women socialized with each other, toured the White House with Jackie Kennedy, and watched their husbands' launches on TV together over champagne and cigarettes. Some missions ended in tragedy, such as when a failed test flight in 1967 resulted in the deaths of Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. The Gemini and the Apollo missions followed, compelling the wives of legendary astronauts Collins, Aldrin, and Armstrong, among others, to endure seeing their husbands go on dangerous moon missions. This is truly a great snapshot of the times.
I found out so much interesting information about the space program and the area in which I live (cocoa beach FL). That being said, I agree with others that have said it bounced a little chronologically. The writing was ok but some of the timelines skipped back and forth making it a little confusing. All in ask, a really worthwhile read.
The TV Show was Better
Being a child of the 60s/70s and remembering the space race, I enjoyed watching the TV show. I suspected that ABC had glamourized the story for TV and I would get more depth from the book. Ironically, it was just the opposite. There was more character development of the wives as people in the show. I cared about them in the show. The book is just a series of surface level anecdotes. There was not enough depth about any of the women for me to connect with them, and, as more and more were added to club, it became harder and harder to keep them straight. At times, the book felt more gossipy than respectful. I think there's a fascinating story in the lives of these women, but it's not in this book.
the astronaut wives club
I remember the events with amazing clarity. The women were incredibly strong.
I wish that the author had gone into more depth on Apollo 13. How the astronauts and their wives survived this voyage is beyond me.