Loving Frank by Nancy Horan is one of those novels that makes one reflect upon the role of women, and the degree of progression that has occurred over the last 100 years or so. Even though his name is in the title, this book isn't about the great American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Well, it is and it isn't. The focus of this historical novel is on Mamah Borthwick Cheney, a woman Wright had fallen in love with after designing a new home for her and her husband Edwin. Wright is more than just her lover, he is the catalyst that ignites a fire within her to embark upon a whole new life. A life where she has the freedom to have a career of her choosing and her own identity, instead of just being Mrs. Edwin Cheney. It is an age of modernization as Wright tries to usher out the old classical style of architecture and introduce one that is more natural and practical. Meanwhile, Mamah Cheney is trying to bring in a new era where women are able to have a spouse and career of their choosing. Unfortunately, neither one of them has an easy time as the constraints of society try to force them into the conventional way.
Mamah Cheney makes the difficult decision to leave her husband and children to attempt a life with Wright and to also fulfill her dream of translating books. No matter how you feel about her choice, one has to emphasize with her as she anguishes over not having her children by her side and having to face the vicious attacks from Victorian society. For those of you who don't know what happened to Mamah Cheney, I won't reveal it. But suffice it to say that the tragic events that occur make this story all the more heartbreaking.
Nancy Horan deftly weaves historical fact with dramatized events to create this slice of one woman's personal fight against a society resistant to change. For other stories with similar themes, The Awakening by Kate Chopin and "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman are both worth investigating.