Koppel clearly admires her subjects, which makes it a shame that they are increasingly difficult to keep straight. Additionally, without citations, the sources of Koppel’s facts and quotations — be they firsthand interviews or articles from the ’60s — are not apparent. The initial seven Mercury wives receive the most attention and emerge with semi-distinct identities, but by 1963, with several “generations” of astrofamilies populating Togethersville, I had given up on trying to remember who was who.
To be fair, Koppel is chronicling a cultural moment more than any particular person, and in this she excels. The details are superb, from the ham loaves the women cooked to the Virginia Slims they chain-smoked, the fur hot pants and Pucci dresses they wore, the luaus and shrimp-boil parties they threw, and the Mercury-capsule-shaped community swimming pool they shared. In a moment that perfectly summarizes time and place, Koppel describes Sue Bean and her friends lining up before a party so that Sue’s astronaut husband, Alan, a perfectionist engineer, could “put on their fake eyelashes for them. He could align and glue the black wisps ever so precisely.”