Way back in sixth grade we studied the solar system and also the astronauts and their different missions. While the rest of my class was round robin reading, I was secretly reading my book under my desk and checking from time to time as my time to read aloud drew near. Thus, I know almost nothing about the astronauts or our space program. I did watch and enjoy Apollo 13, if that counts.
Yet, The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel intrigued me. I have become a great lover of fictionalized biographies, and The Astronaut Wives Club is a bit like that.
I will admit that at first I was overwhelmed with the number of characters and had a hard time keeping straight who was married to who. Luckily there is a handy list at book's beginning that I could refer to. And, I found myself finally "getting it" after seeing the list and reading about these wives. Finally, I could see how there were distinctly different sets of astronauts who had been hired to complete certain missions, something I should have learned back in grade school.
While I am sure the astronauts were fascinating, interesting men, it is the women they were married to that made their story more interesting to me. Learning about their wives, children, and backgrounds made these legends human. And their stories, because of their differences, finally allowed me to separate these men from just a group of astronauts into individuals.
Right now I'd be hard-pressed to give you any details about one particular astronaut or his family, yet I was totally engrossed in the story of these women and their families. Photographs taken during the height of the astronaut's fame allowed me an inside look at a time period that has passed, and a slice of history.
It's unfortunate it's taken me so long to learn a bit more about an important part of American history, yet it doesn't surprise me that it is the personal stories that touched me more than the facts or missions themselves.