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.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Financial Times • San Francisco Chronicle • New York Public Library • Refinery29 • Real Simple
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
Bloom, finalist for the National Book Award (for Come to Me), brings to life Eleanor Roosevelt through the eyes of her lover, Lorena "Hick" Hickok, in this fiery historical novel. After eight years apart, Hick visits Eleanor following the death of F.D.R. just months before the end of WWII. Seeing her old friend and lover inspires Hick to reflect on trips the car trip they took to Maine during their initial courtship while Franklin Roosevelt was still governor of New York. It was on this trip that Hick first divulged her life story to Eleanor: growing up in an abusive home in rural South Dakota, leaving as a teenager to work as a housemaid, being hired as a receptionist for a traveling circus, and starting a career in journalism in Chicago. Hick eventually worked the politics beat at the Associated Press before leaving due to her close relationship to the Roosevelts. Bloom beautifully captures the affection the women felt for each other by revealing hushed schemes and stolen moments of passion against the backdrop of world-changing events that end up driving Eleanor and Hick apart. Cleverly structured through reminiscences that slowly build in intimacy, Bloom's passionate novel beautifully renders the hidden love of one of America's most guarded first ladies.