The book fell short of my expectations. I thought it would more positively encourage the idea of a woman for President, but for me it was the opposite. The plot seemed a bit obvious, and it felt like chick lit rather than a more serious presentation of a significant subject. It felt like a rewrite of the 9/11 terror incident, but instead of George Bush, we have Charlotte Kramer at the helm. There didn’t seem to be anything new offered, except perhaps for a behind the scenes look at the emotional reactions of the players, and since all of the major players were women, it was a rather vain and emotional interpretation which did not inspire me to vote for a woman at all.
The story seemed preoccupied with the largely female characters’ diets, cosmetics, wardrobes, love lives, images and emotional reactions, rather than their professional portrayal as competent politicians and White House representatives able to rise above the moment to deal with whatever crisis presented itself. Too much emphasis was placed on minute, unimportant details in the face of a terrorist act that hit multiple cities and murdered scores of innocent people. Many of the women and men portrayed on the White House staff and in the Press Corps seemed shallow and self interested, arrogant and rude, demanding and ungracious. By and large, the men were depicted as incompetent or self-serving boobs, disloyal and backbiting, the woman as demanding, unable to be satisfied, shrill, conniving and over-emotional. Both men and women were portrayed as victims of their hormones. Few characters were truly admirable, but the men were even less so. The nicest male character was killed off.
The 45th President is Charlotte Kramer, a Republican and the first woman to hold that office. Hers is also the first unity administration. Her Vice President, Maureen, is a Democrat. Her marriage is suffering under the strain of her ambition. Her husband Peter has had an affair with her Press Secretary, Dale, who is still on her staff, one of her twins is acting out and causing her embarrassment, and a terrorist attack has just thrown her world into chaos. Soft targets in multiple cities have been struck with large numbers of casualties. The CIA and other intelligence services failed to anticipate it and it is disastrous.
I found the dialogue a bit clichéd, often making me shake my head in disbelief. Rather than the tale intensifying with the search for the perpetrators of the terrorist attack, and bringing them to justice, it concentrated on petty grievances, pregnancies, romantic encounters and relationships, infidelity, extramarital affairs, and emotional outbursts.
The ending was a silly display of emotion, depicting a President and her confidant in an unrealistic, emotional moment, standing in a newly built nursery. It diminished the message the novel could have presented. I would think that working for the government and being engaged with National Security issues would require 100% of a person’s attention, if not more, and would not allow for having a child at their side, distracting them from the monumental decisions that have to be made on a moment’s notice. Having a child and having a high profile job are not always compatible pursuits. Sometimes, choices have to be made for the care of the child, to benefit the requirements of the country and not one’s personal life or needs.
The three most important characters were Dale, the Press Secretary, Melanie, the Defense Secretary, and Charlotte, the President, who shared the stage with alternating chapters devoted to each. Nicole Wallace is a good writer who knows her way around politics and Washington, having worked as a Press Secretary, Communications Director and Campaign Advisor, over the last decade and a half, for several administrations. This book exemplifies that knowledge, and is read extremely well by the narrator, Tavia Gilbert. I suspect that in the print version, I might not have like the book as much. I, therefore, recommend the audiobook because Gilbert breathed new life into a rather overworked theme.