The latest novel from Amy Bloom (Lucky Us) is an achingly beautiful love story that unfolds through the eyes of Lorena Hickok, known as Hick, a great journalist and author who lived in the White House with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt as “her very special friend.” They were lovers, which was understood by family, the White House staff and even President Roosevelt.
Hick, who grew up amid poverty and abuse in South Dakota, stands by Eleanor’s side at events for many years, though she is cut out of most pictures. Like many relationships that are relegated to the shadows, Hick and Eleanor’s love exists in many incarnations over the decades. They part and come back together time and time again, sometimes as lovers, sometimes seeking the solace of familiarity, always trying to know each other completely.
Bloom brings incredible dimension to her historical figures, especially the wise and savvy Hick, who is apt to quote Emily Dickinson, Samuel Johnson or Shakespeare. Hick’s relationship with FDR is rendered with remarkable clarity, as she watches him give passionate speeches to inspire a nation during wartime, and as his withering body, ravaged by polio, is carried up the stairs at bedtime. Hick knows that Eleanor will never leave him, and despite her respect for the man, her jealousy can never be resolved.
White Houses is so gorgeously written that some passages need to be read more than once, or perhaps aloud, to fully appreciate their craftsmanship. A Roosevelt cousin describes Hick as erudite. To call this novel the same would be an understatement.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a Behind the Book essay by Amy Bloom on White Houses.