Friday, August 23, 2013

The Astronaut Wives Club: a true story | Lily Koppel

I found this quite a sad book. It's the first time anyone has told the story of the wives of the astronauts in the USA space program. Loppel has met most of the wives and interviewed them to get a picture of what they went through while their men were being trained by NASA.

The immense stress, loneliness and pressure on the wives is the untold story, as at the time they were expected to put on a brave face, keep the home running and have a PR relationship with the media. No help, advice or training was given by NASA. It was the wives among themselves that figured out the best way to have a handle on living in the spotlight.

There were huge perks for the families ($1 a year Corvettes, visits to the White House, low mortgages) and yet they had to make ends meet on very low incomes.

Their husbands were being trained away from their homes in Huston, at Cape Kennedy. When they did make it home they were not supposed to be put under any strain or pressure. Most of the marriages broke up once the astronauts ended their missions. It was common for the men to maintained affairs and flirtations when training at the Cape. In Huston, they were expected to pretend all was well in the home.

The book is a candid view of the 50's, 60's and 70's in America. These wives went through a lot, most have survived, after suffering depression, anxiety, alcoholism and divorce. They still meet together, and support each other, as they have done for the past 50 years. It's the AWC friendships which are remarkable to read about and I thought it a fascinating look at life behind the scenes for those who flew for NASA.

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