The Astronaut Wives Club
Written by: Lily Koppel
Published By: Grand Central Publishing
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Has a friend ever made a book recommendation that had you wondering, “What was she thinking?” That’s exactly what I was saying to myself when I received The Astronaut Wives Club in the mail. I had seen the previews for the television series based on this book and I really felt it wasn’t for me. But, I do try to keep an open mind when given books, so I decided to read it all the way through. Lesson learned: Never doubt the book recommendations of a good friend.
The Astronaut Wives Club covers the women behind the male astronauts since the NASA space program’s inception. But it is more than just the story of the wives of the space program. This is a tale of what the women would have to go through – their strength and perseverance through a time of great uncertainty. The original seven families involved in the Mercury project featured wives of military test pilots. Many of those wives wondered every day if their husbands would come home. Now, they wondered if they would even survive the journey to space.
And there were other worries along the way. Many of these wives had never been in the public eye. Now they were followed around daily by reporters hoping to get the latest scoop on the space program members, whether it be pristine and pure or downright ugly. With the husbands becoming famous overnight, there were many women throwing themselves at their feet. Wives would sit at home wondering if, while their husbands were supposed to be in training, were they having themselves a piece of Cape Cookie (their term for the hangers on) on the side.
We are reminded that the space program came long before the women's liberation movement. Thus, the women were expected to behave in a certain way and support their husbands in every endeavor. As time wore on, these women realized that they might have to fend for themselves should something happen to their men - whether catastrophic, like the numerous plane accidents that occurred with husbands flying to and from their jobs or a flight mishap like the first Apollo flight that never left the ground, or emotionally devastating like their husbands finding another woman.
I enjoyed reading about the strength of these women and the ways in which they bonded, supporting each other through the good times and the bad. I love that they still find a way to keep in touch with one another. The version of The Astronaut Wives Club that my friend sent me included extras like an interview with author Lily Koppel and a discussion of Koppel’s journey in writing this book in her own words. I found these sections very informative and also enjoyed the pictures included in the book that told more of the tale.
As I said, one should never doubt the book recommendations of a good friend – she knew that I would enjoy learning about the women who contributed to the grand historical adventure of American flight into space and eventually to the moon. The Astronaut Wives Club did start off a bit slow, but twenty pages in, I was utterly hooked and ended up finishing the book in a couple of days. Definitely a must read for anyone interested in American history and women’s roles in it.