Book Review: Loving Frank

lovingfrankHonestly, prior to reading Loving Frank, I didn’t know much about Frank Lloyd Wright, nor did I know anything about his love affair with Mamah Borthwick Cheney, the narrator of this story.  Sometimes, it’s nice to go into a book about historical figures, not knowing anything, but it can also give you one heck of a surprise, if you didn’t know what was coming. 

The story takes place beginning around 1907, when Wright and Cheney began their love affair.  Cheney and her husband commissioned Wright to design their family’s home, and somewhere along the way, Wright and Cheney fell for each other.

But it’s not a simple love story.  Back in the early 1900s a married woman didn’t get an easy divorce, and her children often stayed with her husband.  Cheney chose to live with the self-absorbed, highly brilliant but very unreliable Wright, at the cost of losing her two children.

And although she waxed poetic about missing her kids, I only saw that her own narcissism was her greatest drive.  She embraced the early women’s liberation and feminist movements, which certainly had value, including the push for women’s voting and equal employment rights.  But she latched onto feminist Ellen Key’s philosophy, which is elaborated in detail, including a total disregard for the lifelong covenant of marriage.  Interestingly, Cheney turned away from Key when the feminist challenged Cheney on the abandonment of her children.  (Funny how people gravitate towards certain philosophies as long as they are comfortable and stop when they get become inconvenient.)

Neither Wright nor Cheney were particularly compelling for me.  Wright abandoned six children for Cheney, and she rarely saw her two children.  Both were so self-absorbed, they seemed very self-serving, even in relation to one another.  Most of the book is Cheney, alone, reflecting on her woes and trying to figure out her purpose in life.

What is selling this book is Wright’s name coupled with a scandal and a shocking surprise ending, for everyone, like me, who failed to read up on Wright’s history. 

But I’m going to surprise you here by encouraging you to read this book.  I’ve criticized it fairly heavily, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a read.  This is a highly popular  book, and people you know are reading it.  I encourage you to learn about Cheney, so you can talk with the people you know who are struggling with these same issues, common ones, of dissatisfaction in their marriage, divorce, and “falling out of love.”  Of course, Cheney and Wright are no exemplars of how to “do it right,” but they are a place to begin a dialogue, a starting place to discuss the alternatives.  How could Jesus have changed this story?  Where does the gospel offer hope, where this story offers so much despair? 

If I recommend any books that you’d like to purchase, consider buying them through Amazon using the links on my site, so I get a percent of the purchase price back to buy more books to review!


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. As usual, I find the books you choose to read as interesting. You have eclectic tastes.

    AL: I suppose that I do. If I were to attempt to generalize about what kind of books I like, I’d say that they would either have to be very popular (so I can talk to people about them) or very old (so they’ve stood the test of time) or very lauded by critics of the academic variety (there’s a lot of meat in there to digest) or they offer some truth about human nature or God. Okay, and then there’s there escapist “candy” books too (usually historical fiction). And cat humor books. So, yes, pretty eclectic.

    Dan will often get a good chuckle when I send him to the library to pick up the books that have come in on my hold list. They can be pretty diverse. Yesterday it was: Freud and beyond : a history of modern psychoanalytic thought, Everyday Cat Excuses, and Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe.

  2. just finished this book last night. i agree with your critical review of frank and mamah’s characters, but i absolutely loved this book. i think they striggled with things a lot of people do – then and now. did they handle it the best? no.

    one thing i didn’t quite get was why frank couldn’t just divorce catherine. women couldn’t vote, weren’t paid equally, all that stuff at the time, but a woman could prevent a divorce from happening? it just struck me as odd seeing how women were treated during this period.

    and, the ending completely shocked me as well…i actually ran right to the computer to google it to see if it really was true!

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