White Houses by Amy Bloom, review by Shelly Walston
Amy Bloom's first foray into creative historical nonfiction with White Houses is elegantly done. With an intimate look into the lives of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Bloom manages to build a story about the things that were often left unsaid through her narrator Lorena Hickok.
Hickok is the center of "White Houses," and her bold, brassy style comes off the page through Bloom's writing. A newspaperwoman from the 1930s-1950s, "Hick" was as bold and as the "open secret" of her relationship with Eleanor. Called the First Friend, Lorena shared an adjoining room to the First Lady's. This change - from a poverty-stricken and abusive childhood to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. - is made less abrupt through Bloom's storytelling.
From the time the two first met in 1932 when Hick was covering FDR's first run for president, to her final days, Eleanor held a special place in Hick's life - something that Bloom builds through the letters, reports, and books written about the Roosevelt White House (and Lorena Hickok). The book is told in sections - mostly through flashback after FDR's death and Eleanor's resulting grief.
The two women - Eleanor and Hick - couldn't be more opposite to one another: Hick knew poverty while Eleanor knew wealth and grandeur; Hick knew bawdy back rooms while Eleanor entertained dignitaries. But the love the two share bridges the differences and creates a lasting impression in the reader.