**Loving Frank by Nancy Horan (2007)

Despite looking at a lot of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work in various house books, I knew little  of his personal life other than the fact that his ideas were different and ahead of the times.  This work of historical fiction focuses on Wright’s relationship with his mistress of 7 years (and former client), Mamah Borthwick Cheney.  What a story and what a scandal they were!  Though she ultimately got a divorce from her husband (Wright didn’t until many years later), they made headlines for years.  The Chicago papers at that time (roughly 1907 – 1914) reminded me of the current National Enquirer, filled with yellow journalism.  Mamah essentially left her husband and children to live and travel with Wright and to pursue her own career interests, mainly translating the work of Ellen Keys, an early pioneer in the ‘Woman Movement’.  Mamah and Wright were truly soul mates and sacrificed many obligations and reputations to remain together, both abandoning kind and supportive spouses who made them feel ‘suffocated’.  I found myself oscillating back and forth between empathy and anger toward Mamah.  On the one hand, she had the courage to forge out on her own at a time in America when women had few rights or choices, but on the other hand, she simply walked out on her children, leaving her husband and sister to raise them and to explain their mother’s abandonment.  Ultimately she does begin to reconnect with them, but who knows if she could ever have been a real mother to them.  This is a fascinating story that pulled me into their world, and now I have a much keener interest in Wright’s work, especially Taliesin, Midway Gardens, and The Imperial Hotel in Japan, all of which come to life in the book.  (historical fiction)

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