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White Houses
Cover of White Houses
White Houses
A Novel
by Amy Bloom
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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 • 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
  • 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 • 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
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    Excerpts-
    • From the book Chapter 1

      Luck Is Not Chance

      In 1932, my father was dead and my star was rising. I could write. People looked for my name. I'd gotten a big bounce from The Milwaukee Sentinel to New York because I was the only woman to cover Big Ten football playoffs and the excellent Smith scandal (idiot corset salesman and buxom mistress cut off the head of her husband and hide it in the bathtub). I had hit it hard in Brooklyn, at the Daily Mirror and moved on to the Associated Press. I had a small apartment, with a palm-­sized window and a bathroom down the hall. I owned one frying pan, two plates, and two coffee mugs. My friends were newspapermen, my girlfriends were often copy editors (very sharp, very sweet), and I was what they called a newspaperwoman. They ran my bylines and everyone knew I didn't do weddings. It was good.

      The men bought me drinks and every night I bought a round before I went home. They talked about their wives and mistresses in front of me and I didn't blink. I didn't wrinkle my nose. I sympathized. When the wives were on the rag, when the girlfriend had a bun in the oven, when the door was locked, I said it was a damn shame. I sipped my Scotch. I kept my chin up and my eyes friendly. I didn't tell the guys that I was no different, that I'd sooner bed a dozen wrong girls and wake up in a dozen hot-­sheet joints, minus my wallet and plus a few scratches, than be tied down to one woman and a couple of brats. I pretended that even though I hadn't found the right man, I did want one. I pretended that I envied their wives and that took effort.

      (I never envied a wife or a husband, until I met Eleanor. Then, I would have traded everything I ever had, every limo ride, every skinny-­dip, every byline and carefree stroll, for what Franklin had, polio and all.)

      It was a perfect night to be in a Brooklyn bar, waiting for the snow to fall. I signaled for another beer and a young man, from the city desk, stout and red-­faced like me, brought it over and said, "Hick, is your dad Addison Hickok? I remember you were from South Dakota."

      I said, Yes, that was me, and that was my old man.

      I'm sorry, he said, I hear he killed himself. It came over the wire, there was a rash of Dust Bowl suicides. Traveling salesman, right? I'm sorry.

      Don't you worry, I said. I couldn't say, Drinks all around, because my father's dead and I am not just glad, I am goddamn glad. No man drinks to a woman saying that. I left two bits under my glass and made my way home, to find a letter from Miz Min, my father's second wife, asking if I might send money for the burial expenses. I lit the envelope with my cigarette and I went to New Jersey.

      I was the Associated Press's top dog for the Lindbergh kidnapping. We were all racing to tell the story and the Daily News got there first, with an enormous, grainy photo of the baby and the headline "Lindy's Baby Kidnaped," which was clear and short, and the Times's "Lindbergh Baby Kidnapped from Home of Parents on Farm Near Princeton" was more exact but not first. They avoided vulgar familiarity but really, who cares whether the baby's taken from a farm or a ranch or a clover patch.

      (The Daily News, March 2, 1932.)

      The most famous baby in the world, Charles A. Lindbergh Jr., was kidnaped from his crib on the first floor of the Lone Eagle's home at Hopewell, N.J., between 7:30 and 10:30 o'clock last night.

      The flier's wife, the former Anne Morrow, discovered at 10:30 that her 20-­months-­old son was missing. Her mother, Mrs. Dwight W. Morrow, who disclosed that Mrs. Lindbergh is expecting another baby, feared that the shock might have serious effect.

      Anne...
    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.
    Reviews-
    • Library Journal

      October 1, 2017

      New York Times best seller Bloom (Lucky Us), a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, draws inspiration from real-life figures as she reimagines the deep friendship between AP reporter Lorena Hickok and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The novel is told from Hickok's perspective, opening with her childhood and eventually intertwining her life and the First Lady's as we are taken behind the scenes at the White House, where Hickok lived. (She also had a little white house on Long Island, hence the title.) With a three- to five-city tour.

      Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

    • Kirkus

      December 1, 2017
      From the prolific Bloom, whose novels and short stories have often explored the complexity of sexuality and gender (Lucky Us, 2014, etc.), a bio-fiction about the romance between Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist Lorena Hickok told from Hickok's perspective.Lorena's winning narrative voice is tough, gossipy, and deeply humane. Her storytelling begins and continually circles back to shortly after FDR's death. On the last weekend in April 1945, a grieving Eleanor has summoned Lorena to her Manhattan apartment years after having sent her away. Now in late middle-age, the two fall into their ingrained routine as lovers--and has anyone written about middle-aged women's bodies and sexuality with Bloom's affectionate grace? Lorena's enduring love for Eleanor does not blind her to the reality of the two women's differences: "Her propriety, my brass knuckles." Bloom mostly depicts already familiar details of Eleanor's history, character, and personality. More riveting are Lorena's memories of her early life before Eleanor, from a dirt-poor childhood to a brief circus career described in arrestingly colorful detail to work as a journalist forbidden to publish her suspicion that Lindbergh staged a coverup concerning his baby's kidnapping. Lorena and Eleanor fell in love shortly before FDR won the presidency. Given his own complicated love life, FDR accepted the affair and got Lorena a job with his administration. Lorena, far from saintly, continues to love Eleanor almost despite recognizing that Eleanor cannot help living a "sainted life." The complexity of their mutual attraction is one of the joys of the book, particularly when Lorena recalls an Eleanor tender and even girlish during a private driving vacation to Maine they took without a Secret Service escort. Having lived as an intimate outsider within the FDR White House, Lorena also offers her admittedly biased take on the confidential crises, tragedies, and peccadilloes of the Roosevelt household.Bloom elevates this addition to the secret-lives-of-the-Roosevelts genre through elegant prose and by making Lorena Hickok a character engrossing enough to steal center stage from Eleanor Roosevelt.

      COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

    • Publisher's Weekly

      January 29, 2018
      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.

    • Melanie Benjamin, author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue "Amy Bloom illuminates one of the most intriguing relationships in history. Lorena Hickok is a woman who found love with another lost soul, Eleanor Roosevelt. And love is what this book is all about: It suffuses every page, so that by the time you reach the end, you are simply stunned by the beauty of the world these two carved out for themselves."
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