In my recent space obsession (my husband’s words not mine LOL) I checked out The Astronaut Wive’s Club from the library. We had just rewatched Apollo 13 and as I watched I was more caught up this time in the story of Marilyn Lovell. I just couldn’t imagine what she was going through. It’s hard enough to imagine watching your husband launched into space the first time, much less the fourth and then for something to go wrong. Not knowing if you would ever see your husband again…words elude me. So I was thrilled to find this book.
First we meet the original Mercury Seven wives. They are a varied bunch, some with very strong opinions and yet in time as their husbands begin to actually make the trip to space they connect. Next are the New Nine, then the Fourteen, and the “Original Nineteen”. These women are some of the strongest I’ve ever read or hear about. Most of them began as military wives, some then became test pilot wives. Throughout all of this they never knew when it would be the last time they would see their husbands and yet they all supported their men when they entered the Space program.
These women supported each other through flights, problems, philandering husbands, deaths, the onslaught of the press, and so much more. We hear these days about how ferocious the press can be, how little respect they have for their subjects and yet reading this book it seems it was never any better. The first seven wives were pounced upon by the press some the day their husbands were announced as the Mercury Seven and some the next day. Reporters followed them and questioned them at the grocery store, invited themselves into the women’s houses. When a deal was struck with Life magazine that provided a livable salary (remember these were military wives and military salaries are not good even now or maybe especially now) and life insurance for the men they were then followed by a reporter from the magazine. Each astronaut and then his wife would have a profile written on them. They had to become the quintessential American housewives. Any misstep by them in the media could mean their husband would be pushed back to a later mission or might not even get to go to space. Some of them hid secrets, one had left her husband months before he was chosen because she had caught him cheating on her, another was a divorcee when she met her now astronaut husband.
The Mercury Seven wives and the New Nine wives did not gel into a well-knit group from the start, there were some difficulties but as time went they and the newer astronaut wives did become closer. Yet through it all many held back at least at large meetings, they worried that sharing their fears would get back to the NASA administration and their husbands would suffer the consequences. The Astrowives became a sisterhood going so far as to shun a new Astrowife, the new wife of an astronaut, the woman he had cheated on his first wife with.
These women were there for each other. As deaths occur they bolster one another, they step forward to care for the widow, keeping track of her and being sure she is adjusting to her new life well. When things don’t go well they keep it amongst themselves.
I haven’t finished this book just yet, I’m pages from the Apollo 13 mission, which is near the end and I can’t wait to pick the book back up to finish it. Definitely a book everyone should read!