Nancy Horan’s Loving Frank (Ballantine Books, $23.95), which has had marvelous press coverage on NPR and in The New York Times, deserves the praise. A novel of ideas combined with an intricate tale of the emotional turbulence of a great and greatly inconvenient love affair, not to mention an ending so shocking and horrifying that I couldn’t sleep after I read it, Loving Frank tells the story of Mameh Borthwick Cheney. A highly educated yet proper middle-class woman in Chicago, Mameh falls for brilliant architect Frank Lloyd Wright when he builds a house for her and her husband. The internal struggles – as Mameh tries to deal with loving her children yet staying true to herself and her love for Frank – explode into international scandal. Based on years of rigorous research, Horan’s book shows off her remarkable writing skill and ability to intelligently narrate this gripping tale.
The lives of Mameh and Frank touch upon the history of art, architecture, suburbanization, anthroposophy, spiritualism, feminism and suffrage as well as the fine shades of emotion surrounding motherhood, adultery, desire and intellectual fulfillment. Horan, a journalist, became fascinated by living in the same neighborhood as the Cheney house, and her passion shows. Those who have studied Wright — whose building ideas, brilliant and grandiose, not to mention impractical in engineering terms, electrified American architecture — will appreciate the portrait of him, but anyone interested in human relationships should appreciate this well-crafted, finely considered work of art.
Nancy Horan reads from Loving Frank at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, Aug. 22, at Powell’s City of Books in Portland. — Suzi Steffen
BOOK NOTES: Christine Harold reads from OurSpace: Resisting the Corporate Control of Culture, 7:30 pm 8/16, Powell’s on Burnside, Portland. Writers’ Fair: Bart King (The Big Book of Boy Stuff), Linda Swanson-Davies (Glimmer Train) and Joe Blakely (Lifting Oregon Out of the Mud) offer info and advice, 1 pm-4 pm 8/19, Downtown Library. Stuart Cowan discusses the 10th anniversary edition of Ecological Design, 7 pm 8/20, Powell’s Technical Books, Portland. Jeff Parker reads from Ovenman, 6 pm 8/30, Mississippi Pizza Pub, Portland. Kate Schtaz reads from Rid of Me: A Story, 7:30 pm 8/30, Powell’s on Hawthorne, Portland.