Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Did You Know Tuesday: The Astronaut Wives Club

My summer obsession this year has been The Astronaut Wives Club.  I read about this book, by Lily Koppel, when it was first released.   I knew I would love it, since it set in the 1960's, is about women's lives, and also involves NASA and the history of Mercury Seven.  And then there was a TV series based on the book as well.  Perfect for summer reading and viewing!

The Astronaut Wives Club focuses on the wives of the Mercury Seven astronauts:  Betty Grissom (wife of Gus Grissom), Rene Carpenter (Scott Carpenter), Louise Shepard (Alan Shepard), Annie Glenn (John Glenn), Trudy Cooper (Gordon Cooper), Jo Schirra (Wally Schirra), and Marge Slayton (Deke Slayton).  The Mercury Seven astronauts were selected in 1959, and they were the original astronauts.  The nonfiction book - and tv series - follows the lives of these families in the 1960's (with a glimpse at their later lives).

When I was a little girl in the late 1960's and early 1970's, NASA was current events news, so we discussed the astronauts and space missions in school.  And I still remember seeing the moon walk in 1969!  However, the Mercury Seven story unfolded before I was aware of the space race, so much of this story was new to me.

To say that I adored the book is an understatement.  It is my favorite read this year, and I have recommended it highly to friends and family.  I found the lives of the wives and the astronauts absolutely fascinating.  There were some small moments in the book where the writing was distracting (i.e. a ramble about Julia Roberts starring in the movie Charlie Wilson's War, which seemed off track and took me away from the 1960's setting of the book).  However, the subject matter kept me reading.

The TV series (10 episodes) was wonderful, and I highly recommend it as well, if you can find it on DVD or streaming.   Standouts in the cast were JoAnna Garcia Swisher as Betty Grissom, Dominique McElligott as Louise Shepherd, and Yvonne Strahovski as Rene Carpenter.  It was fun seeing Zoe Boyle ("Lavinia Swire" from Downton Abbey) and Evan Handler ("Harry Goldenblatt" from Sex and the City) in other roles here.

The lives of these women were fascinating.  They balanced marriage, motherhood, and 1960's suburbia with the daily stress of their husbands' extraordinarily dangerous work, as well as the constant pressure of "Cape Cookies" who were astronaut groupies, always circling the Mercury Seven men.

As a great fan of Mid-Century Americana, the period details from both the book and tv show were wonderful.  The set designers and costumers on the show did an amazing job with the fabulous atomic ranches, 1960's fashions, and retro food.

I wanted to share a few links for readers who also are interested in this story:

The official book site, with a photo gallery and short bios of the wives:  The Astronaut Wives Club

Photos of the astronaut wives - Meet the REAL Astronaut Wives Club

From Retro Renovation (a must follow blog!) - The 14 Beautiful Homes of the Astronaut Wives Club

A gallery of the retro food from Bon Appetit - All the Vintage Food from "The Astronaut Wives Club," From Meatloaf Cupcakes to Jell-O Potato Salad 

From Mid-Century Menu (another blog I love!) - Articles about the food featured in each episode - Astronaut Wives Club at Mid-Century Menu

Here is a little trailer from the TV show.  Enjoy!

If you want to see a bit more, here are the first 5 minutes of the first episode:

Did you read this book or watch the series?  I would love to hear your thoughts on either/both in the comments, below!