White Houses by Amy Bloom [in Library Journal]
“I sound like the hayseed I am and the smoker I was and the drinker that I expect I’ll continue to be,” Lorena Hickok describes herself. With her raspy, no-nonsense delivery, Tonya Cornelisse embodies “Hick,” the real-life lover, confidante, and intimate friend of Eleanor Roosevelt. With slight adjustments in pitch and tone, Cornelisse affectingly becomes the First Lady, various White House staff, FDR, and multiple minor characters pulled into Hick and Eleanor’s orbit.
Bloom’s (Lucky Us) assured, compelling novelization reveals a remarkable woman and an enduring, evolving relationship during a period of U.S. history most readers think they know (FDR’s larger-than-life legacy), but few will recognize (tolerance of certain relationships, condemnation of others, beyond-the-expected socioeconomic and gender inequity).
Cornelisse empathically narrates Hick’s life, marked by her father’s heinous abuse, teenage jobs that included working in a circus, success as an Associated Press journalist, her White House years with Eleanor, and her privilege and ostracism both.
Verdict: As the most lauded work amid an expanding list of Hick-and-Eleanor titles (novels: Kelly McNees’s Undiscovered Country, Susan Albert’s Loving Eleanor; nonfiction: Susan Quinn’s Eleanor and Hick, Rodger Streitmatter’s Empty Without You), Bloom’s latest should garner high demand in all formats.