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White Houses

Review

White Houses

It is April 1945, a couple of weeks after President Franklin Roosevelt’s death, and famed reporter and author Lorena Hickok is waiting for the arrival of her best friend, lover and soulmate, former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. With her heart heavy over FDR’s passing, and already bruised from the death of her baby and brother years earlier, Eleanor turns to the one who knows her best, the only person who can calm and comfort her. In her distinctive first-person voice, Lorena anticipates Eleanor’s arrival.

“I expect to see her gray with Roosevelt suffering, the kind that must not only be borne, but must be seen to be born, elegantly, showing her great effort to be patient with everyone’s sadness and pulling need, and beneath that, just like it was with her brother, a hook of barbed and furious grief that she’d tear out if she could.”

"You want to keep going from chapter to chapter, not to see 'whodunit' or experience love’s first kiss, but simply because the author is gifted at making readers hunger for more."

Their relationship had been a source of whispers, gossip and debate for decades, but there was no disputing their bond. This is the tale told by WHITE HOUSES --- a tale of love so deep that it transcends gender roles and social acceptance, and simply…is. From the former President’s death, the story transports the reader back a decade, when FDR was campaigning for the presidency and the two women met.

Lorena had made a name for herself as a “newspaperwoman” --- a rare thing in those days --- and had daily bylines in the Associated Press as she reported on the infamous kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. She was then sent to cover Eleanor Roosevelt because “her old man’s heading to the White House.” Lorena had heard Eleanor was “dull and pleasant,” but five minutes into meeting her, she knew there was much more to this impressive woman. By the time Roosevelt won the presidency, the women’s feelings for each other had begun to blossom. Eleanor asked Lorena to move into the White House, in an adjoining room where they professed their love for each other. Lorena then heads to work to resign from the White House beat.

“I had already quashed a dozen prizewinning Roosevelt stories to protect her, or him, or the kids. I needed to change my beat or give her up.” When her editor refused her request, she resigned from the AP completely, with no money and no job prospects. Later that day, the President told her “we’ve got a job for you, Hicky,” and she became the investigative reporter for the Federal Emergency Relief. Throughout the years, she wrote books about the Roosevelts and Helen Keller, and co-wrote a book with Eleanor. Together, the two women travelled the country, exploring, learning, discovering and loving each other through life’s peaks and pitfalls. And through it all, Lorena was always amazed by the way Eleanor touched the people she met.

“…but Eleanor was not a grand light shining briefly on the lucky little people. She reached for the soul of everyone who spoke to her, every day. She bowed her head toward yours, as if there was nothing but the time and necessary space for two people to briefly love each other.”

Amy Bloom’s writing washes over the reader like a sunrise tide on an island shore. You want to keep going from chapter to chapter, not to see “whodunit” or experience love’s first kiss, but simply because the author is gifted at making readers hunger for more. Even those who are not fans of historical fiction will love this book for all the components that make it a masterpiece: Lorena’s unique voice, imagery that transports you to another place and time, touches of wit and humor, characters so real you will feel like you are laughing and crying with them, and unsurpassed storytelling.

Reviewed by Susan Miura on February 15, 2018

White Houses
by Amy Bloom

  • Publication Date: February 13, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Random House
  • ISBN-10: 081299566X
  • ISBN-13: 9780812995664