With this bombshell, paradoxically, the unthinkable becomes a matter for thoughtful contemplation. Lorena Hickok was a...



With this bombshell, paradoxically, the unthinkable becomes a matter for thoughtful contemplation. Lorena Hickok was a heavy-set, heavy-voiced AP reporter when her passing acquaintance with Eleanor Roosevelt--then still wearing hairnets--burgeoned into intimacy during the 1932 presidential campaign: by the time FDR was inaugurated, ER was wearing Hick's sapphire ring and the two women were exchanging the passionate letters (ER: ""Oh! I want to put my arms around you, I ache to hold you close"") whose recent coming to light revealed the depth of their attachment. Doris Faber, the first reseacher who happened upon the letters after Hickok's papers were opened to the public (ten years, as stipulated, after her 1968 death), tried, she recounts, to persuade the FDR Library to close them again. It is well that they declined, and that what was bound ""to come out"" is now coming out scrupulously in context--for there is a larger story in Lorena Hickok's life and the 35-year relationship between the two women. Hickok's childhood exceeds the lesbian archetype-- oversize, obnoxious girl, convinced she's unlovable; the brutal father (who, she told three confidantes, raped her); the weak mother, no shield or solace; the friendlessness, the start of a obsession that--in her words--she had ""nothing of her own."" Then: a stint as a hired girl, starting at 15; becoming a reporter, in emulation of Edna Ferber; rooming--for eight years--with dainty Ella Morse; the shock of Ellie's marriage; braving New York; and, once settled in, a consuming, improvident affection for a big police dog. Faber proceeds gingerly, always noting the strength of the prevailing taboos, into the relationship with ER--which evidently peaked early, sundered, and settled into emotional dependence on the part of ER, lifelong ""emotional bondage"" for Hick. Were they physically intimate, ever? Faber thinks not; but the question remains open, and immaterial. Hick became a White House appendage--first as an investigator for Harry Hopkins, later as a Democratic Party aide. Her one chance to break out and resume reporting was scotched by ER (who later repented her ""cruelty and stupidity""). And meanwhile ER herself--who could never bear to be alone--rose from insecurity to world eminence. It's the story, finally, of a sad, destructive bond--Hick ended her days in two rented rooms in the village of Hyde Park--that does not flatter Eleanor Roosevelt. And Faber has told it for the most part with sober good sense. *There was no advance material for this book.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1980


Page Count: -

Publisher: Morrow

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1980