When I asked my book group what they “loved” about Loving Frank, Nancy Horan’s enthralling novel about the love affair between famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the wife of one of his Oak Park clients, Mamah Borthwick Cheney, not everyone expressed positive feelings for the book. Many group members did say that even though the relationship was illicit, the two principals were deeply in love, and the strong bond between them was very appealing. But others were quite vocal in stating their objections to two individuals, married to other people, who chose to abandon their families and run off to Europe where they could experience their grand passion away from critical eyes.
One of the people who came to the discussion said she had participated in another group where she was the only one who had enjoyed the book. She wanted to discuss it a second time, hoping to find kindred spirits who would praise Horan’s beautiful writing and strong character development. So it was a relief for her when this time around there was a chorus of voices that proclaimed approval for the story of two real-life people who risked everything to capture happiness and in the end, paid a shocking and terrible price.
I have to admit that I was one of the people who voted “thumbs up.” I thought the book was extremely well written and engrossing, especially as it built to a dramatic conclusion filled with tension and irony. Having lived in Oak Park myself for over 25 years, I was familiar with many of the locations in the story. I’d love to see it made into a film, perhaps with Johnny Depp cast as the flamboyant FLW and Laura Linney playing the delicate but strong Mamah, who discovers an undeniable feminist identity inside herself as a result of this intense and unrestrained relationship.
Loving Frank was a big bestseller when it was published in 2007 and has been a popular book group choice ever since. Because of the behavior of its controversial protagonists, it virtually insures a stimulating and provocative discussion. I urge you to try it.