Friday, January 16, 2009

Loving Frank

Loving Frank, by Nancy Horan, is a historical fiction novel based on the life of Frank Lloyd Wright, and his mistress, Mamah (pronounced May-mah, not mama, by the way). My friend Adrianne was reading this book when we were roommate in France last summer and lent it to me over Christmas break. I just finished it yesterday while waiting to board my flight to Phoenix. Let me just say - you might want to read the last part of the book alone... Err, not around a bunch of strangers at an airport. Because if you are like me, you are going to cry. And, well, that is just awkward! While I am super duper sensitive, very few books actually make me cry. This book is definitely one of them. So consider yourself warned!

The book was really interesting and quite disturbing for me to read. It's a pretty scandalous tale. Frank and Mamah are both married and have children of their home. Then Mamah and her husband hire Frank to design a home for them in the Oak Park suburb of Chicago. Mamah and Frank fall in love during the process, and end up leaving their spouses and families in order to be together. I believe Frank had 6 children and Mamah had 2. At one point, Mamah went two years without seeing her children. She basically put her happiness and well-being ahead of the happiness and well-being of her children. In this day and age, I think that is unacceptable, and can't imagine the scandal it must have been back in the early 1900's.

It's hard to keep in mind that the book is only based on history; I love historical fiction but often have trouble separating the facts from the truth. How much of Frank & Mamah's story is correct and how much was embellished by the author? According to the author interview at the end of the book, very little is known about this relationship. Frank Lloyd Wright does not reveal much about their relationship in his autobiography. We do know that it was a significant relationship that lasted around 15 years, during which they lived together, away from their spouses and children.

My curiosity has definitely been sparked by this book. Next time I visit my brother in Chicago, I am hoping to do a Frank Lloyd Wright tour of his homes in the Oak Park area of Chicago. My sister-in-law has already said she'll come with me! There are actually some FLW-inspired homes on the lake where my parents' cabin is located. Every summer, at some point we take a slow little boat tour along the shore to check out some of the homes. I know that my parents have pointed out those FLW-inspired homes, but in the past, I've had my nose stuck in a book or a gossip mag and haven't paid attention. Next summer, however, I plan to pay attention!!

Oh, and this is completely off the topic, but you know that Widower's blog that I follow? The one where he lost his wife the day after their daughter Madeline was born? Well, his story is being covered in People magazine this week! So check it out if you get a chance. I believe it's on news stands starting today & I plan on buying a copy. He also just set up a non-profit that will benefit widows/widowers who are raising their children on their own. He has quite the powerful story.

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