BOOK REVIEW: “LOVING ELEANOR” BY SUSAN WITTIG ALBERT
NOW NOMINATED FOR A LAMBDA LITERARY AWARD
AMBER LOVE 22-DEC-2016 Reviews and all the other content on AmberUnmasked.com are supported by the generous donors at Patreon.com/amberunmasked.
Despite my frequent quoting of former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, I must have been living in a cave when the news broke about the Hickok love letters. The story Albert presents as fiction is still so believable because of the sheer amount of research she put into this story. Her resources are cited in the back along with her own post script about what parts are fictional and exaggerated.
The love story between Lorena “Hick” Hickok and Eleanor unfolds beautifully in Loving Eleanor. Albert is frank in how Hick may have thought that ER wasn’t the most attractive and like other Americans, judged her appearance and penchant for cheap clothes. Immediately the reader sees the distance between FDR and Eleanor. His mistresses always present and his mother domineering are a wedge between the couple. His polio and disability are addressed several times including his bedroom abilities per his butler. But the two Roosevelts were simply better as friends.
Though the words bisexual and polyamorous aren’t used by Albert, she presents their situation as precisely that. FDR and Lucy or FDR and Missy had their own spaces in all the homes (including the White House); while Eleanor dated various people and made space for them as well. The love scenes between Hick and Eleanor are gentle and warm. There’s nothing gratuitous, I promise you that.
I found myself highlighting favorite passages:
She could feel deeply too, when she could temporarily stop being a Roosevelt by blood and by marriage and become just a woman with ordinary human needs: the need to be held, to be comforted, to be loved.
There’s even more to Loving Eleanor than the love stories and relationships. Hick’s work at FERA and her travels to visit the poorest towns in the nation in desperate need of relief counter balance the scenes of extravagant living with the Roosevelts, their friends, and their many houses.
I picked up the book as a huge fan of SWA’s herbal mystery series starring China Bayles, former Texas attorney turned herb and tea shop owner. This is a departure, but it gave me a chance to learn important history of our bisexual polyamorous First Lady.