White Houses

White Houses, Amy Bloom's first novel based on historical characters, tells the story of the love and friendship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok. The women's relationship was so open that "Hick" was widely known as the "First Friend," yet discreet enough that their intimacies continued unchallenged for years. Bloom's (Lucky Us) copious research infuses the tale on every page but never overshadows her storytelling.

Hick's first-person narration provides authenticity, as do the historic references throughout. (Young Tip O'Neill, "that vile Joe Kennedy," Churchill and J. Edgar Hoover make appearances.) The book opens on April 27, 1945, just after FDR's death, and the women's stories surface through reminiscences. Hick had an impoverished South Dakota childhood and scraped her way up to AP reporter on the Lindbergh kidnapping case, which lead to an assignment in 1932 covering Eleanor. Hick recalls, "I never envied a wife or a husband, until I met Eleanor. Then I would have traded anything I ever had for what Franklin had... polio and all." She then quietly moves into the White House, covering the family as a member of the administration.

The women lead parallel yet intertwined lives, "sometimes requiring me to slip out and stroll back in," Hick notes. "We touched under tablecloths, beneath napkins, behind the newspaper." Their independent spirits--Hick a self-sufficient journalist, Eleanor the tireless activist and tolerant wife--led to an ebb and flow of their affair, but they remained devoted until Eleanor's death in 1962. White Houses gives a fresh look at an iconic first lady, her feisty lover and a significant era in 20th century American history. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

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