Wednesday, February 3, 2016

"Loving Eleanor" (Roosevelt, that is)

Source: goodreads.com
Loving Eleanor, by Susan Wittig Albert
Publisher: Persevero Press
Publication date: February 1, 2016
Category: Historical Fiction
Source: I received this galley from NetGalley at the request of the author for consideration of review.


In December 2013 I had the privilege of reviewing Susan Wittig Albert's historical fiction A Wilder Rose: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and Their Little Houses. I loved the book, so when Ms. Albert asked me to consider a review of her new historical fiction, Loving Eleanor, I was more than happy to try it. I say try it because although I've read a great many awesome Eleanor Roosevelt quotes (I have one displayed in my classroom), I knew very little about her, her life, and hadn't really thought to read about her further. I was confident in Ms. Albert's ability to catch my attention though based on my previous experience with her writing. I also know that the construct of Ms. Albert's historical fiction is fictional, of course, but it is backed by an intense research process. In this case, some 3300 letters support the story Ms. Albert tells. You can read more about the story behind the book and the research process by clicking these links.

Loving Eleanor is well summarized on Amazon.com and not knowing exactly what the book would encompass, it helped me focus in as I began reading. I had no inkling that there had been rumor and/or knowledge of Eleanor having an intimate friendship with anyone, let alone a female journalist named Lorena Hickok. Aside from that, I ashamedly knew neither of Lorena Hickok (aka Hick), nor the amazing work she accomplished in the field of journalism for women. Living in the culture and times we do, I tend to take much of what I/females can do for granted. This book really helped me see the work and sacrifice women from different walks of life put into the freedoms I enjoy.

Lorena Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt
Source: shewired.com
Based on the summary, you get a good picture of what the story is about, so I won't go into further detail there. I have to beg forgiveness from Ms. Albert and my readers that, because the summary is very well written, I am about to go off on a tangent discussing my personal connection to the book. I'd rather speak to the ways in which I related to Hick because she is the narrator and her statements and feelings hit me repeatedly as I read. And isn't that what writing and reading are for? To make those connections.

As the lone female AP journalist in New York City, Hick is a strong, determined woman, an obvious relation for me. I have a family and always intended to, but my dreams and goals have always centered around my career goals...to work my way up through a PhD, to teach at the college level, to publish research and possibly even a story.

However, the story is told from Hick's point of view and it is her conflicting feelings that drew me in and made her seem so real. She loves her work and is at the top of the game, yet gives it up for Eleanor. Hick struggles with this decision even as she knows she will not have it any other way. There is no one for whom I'd give up my job (it kinda keeps a roof over my family's head), but I do understand the mixed feelings of sacrifice. Most everything in life requires sacrifice. Careers often cost money and time to prepare for and to carry out. Being a parent costs everything you have and even everything you are at times. Being a spouse and/or friend means extra effort in hard times and intentional thought toward the other person. And even as these things are sometimes hard, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Like Hick throws herself into her job and relationship with Eleanor, I too consider myself an involved person. My family, my close friends, my students/job, my church/God, and my causes/dreams are people I intentionally live for. I'm not saying I never makes mistakes, or even that I'm the greatest person to have around, I'm just saying that I throw all of my effort into the people in my life. If I claim love, caring, friendship, passion, I try very hard to be ALL in.

Also like Hick, I feel the hard side of such involvement. Hick often states herself at a loss and in Hick's case, some of it was due to Eleanor Roosevelt's obvious celebrity - she was the First Lady after all. Otherwise, it was the difficulty that comes with loving deeply: that not everyone does, and even those who do, don't always do so in the same way. Hick's discussion of her thoughts and feelings made me feel "not so out there," that such feelings are perhaps the human condition, something we all have in common.

Thank you Ms. Albert for another great story.

The Eleanor Roosevelt quote in my classroom

10 comments:

  1. Great review!! I also have this one from NetGalley, excited to read it!

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    1. Thanks!I'll be on the lookout for your review!

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  2. Thank you, Jennine--I very much appreciate the way you connect with Hick. She was a strong woman who faced down many challenges and yet allowed herself to love deeply. That's a rare combination. Thank you for writing about it.

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    1. Thanks. And thank you for bringing real people to the forefront!

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  3. Hi, I nominated you for the Liebster award. Check my post for details: http://www.flipaleaf.com/2016/02/liebster-award-liebster-award-is-award.html

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  4. This sounds like such a great story!

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  5. I love historical fiction about interesting women, so this sounds like an author I should give a chance :)

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    1. Yes. She's on to a third book now - another President's wife!

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