White Houses (Hardcover)
Amy Bloom's first foray into creative historical nonfiction with "White Houses" is nicely 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.— Shelly Walston
For readers of The Paris Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue comes a "sensuous, captivating account of a forbidden affair between two women" (People)--Eleanor Roosevelt and "first friend" Lorena Hickok. Lorena Hickok meets Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932 while reporting on Franklin Roosevelt's first presidential campaign. Having grown up worse than poor in South Dakota and reinvented herself as the most prominent woman reporter in America, "Hick," as she's known to her friends and admirers, is not quite instantly charmed by the idealistic, patrician Eleanor. But then, as her connection with the future first lady deepens into intimacy, what begins as a powerful passion matures into a lasting love, and a life that Hick never expected to have. She moves into the White House, where her status as "first friend" is an open secret, as are FDR's own lovers. After she takes a job in the Roosevelt administration, promoting and protecting both Roosevelts, she comes to know Franklin not only as a great president but as a complicated rival and an irresistible friend, capable of changing lives even after his death. Through it all, even as Hick's bond with Eleanor is tested by forces both extraordinary and common, and as she grows as a woman and a writer, she never loses sight of the love of her life. From Washington, D.C. to Hyde Park, from a little white house on Long Island to an apartment on Manhattan's Washington Square, Amy Bloom's new novel moves elegantly through fascinating places and times, written in compelling prose and with emotional depth, wit, and acuity. Praise for White Houses "Amy Bloom brings an untold slice of history so dazzlingly and devastatingly to life, it took my breath away."--Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife "Vivid and tender . . . Bloom--interweaving fact and fancy--lavishes attention on Hickok], bringing Hick, the novel's narrator and true subject, to radiant life."--O: The Oprah Magazine "Radiant . . . an indelible love story, one propelled not by unlined youth and beauty but by the kind of soul-mate connection even distance, age, and impossible circumstances couldn't dim . . . Bloom's goal is less to relitigate history than to portray the blandly sexless figurehead of First Lady as something the job rarely allows those women to be--a loving, breathing human being. And she does it brilliantly."--Entertainment Weekly
About the Author
Amy Bloom is the author of Come to Me, a National Book Award finalist; A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You, nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Love Invents Us; Normal; Away, a New York Times bestseller; Where the God of Love Hangs Out; and Lucky Us, a New York Times bestseller. Her stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, O. Henry Prize Short Stories, The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction, and many other anthologies here and abroad. She has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Vogue, O: The Oprah Magazine, Slate, Tin House, and Salon, among other publications, and has won a National Magazine Award. She is the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing at Wesleyan University.