Review: THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB: A TRUE STORY by Lily Koppel

Earlier in the summer, I heard Lily Koppel being interviewed on NPR about her new novel. Then it seemed that wherever I looked, her book was there. I luckily got a copy of it from Net Galley to review. I found the story of the astronaut wives in the early years of the space program downright fascinating!

I was three years old in 1969 when men first walked on the moon. I have a vague memory of that moment – watching it on television with my family. I don’t have any real memories of the space program of that time, or the race to get men on the moon. But I do remember the culture of the 70’s, and what it was like to grow up then. Reading THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB I was transported back to that era. Lily Koppel does an excellent job in capturing the essence of that time. Though this book is non-fiction, it reads very conversationally and is a quick and easy read (sometimes a little too easy – I did not appreciate reading that one astronaut “bought the farm” in an accident!). I often could not put it down because I found it so interesting.

Koppel follows the astronauts who were instrumental in the US space program by highlighting their wives and families (from the Mercury 7, Gemini, and Apollo programs). The reader becomes intimate with each woman (particularly the Mercury wives) – her background, her likes and dislikes, her strengths and weaknesses. We feel their trepidation when their husbands are in space, their relief is palpable when they return, and for those times when tragedy strikes, we can only imagine their pain and grief.

One of the striking things in this book for me was reading just how completely the wives had committed themselves to their husband’s careers. At the same time, I was rather disillusioned to read of how many of the husband’s were chronically unfaithful to their wives. I’d love to see another book written from the “astrokids” point of view!

Thanks, Net Galley and Grand Central Publishing for my copy!

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