Blending facts and fiction with some chapters devoted to literary dissertation rather than biographical information, Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines A Life
is a hybrid of a biography and a narrative.
Drawing from a variety of sources which are noted in the back of the book, Beattie recounts snapshots of Pat Nixon’s life and at the same time interjects her own suppositions, imagining what Pat Nixon might have done or said in a given situation. Beattie notes that her book “is based on research,” but also states, “I imagine dialogue… in some cases, factual events are used only as points of departure.” A brief chronology is included at the end of the book highlighting some of the events in Pat Nixon’s life as well as those of her husband, Richard Nixon.
Beattie is a university professor and has received awards for her short stories. The chapters in Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines A Life are not individual short stories; however, they do stand alone in variety and scope. For example, chapter one is a list of nicknames; other chapters include examples of literary terms and the author’s opinion about writers.
Reading this book is like looking through a box of photographs and notes rather than reading a chronicled scrapbook or detailed diary. If you are looking for a complete biography about Pat Nixon, this book is not it, but if you would like to read snippets of Pat Nixon’s life intermingled with ‘what-ifs’ read on.