Loving Frank Review
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One morning last summer, I decided to save my family from yet another episode of SpongeBob SquarePants and infuse our lives with a little bit of culture. We got in the car and took a short drive to Taliesin West, architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert home and school in Scottsdale, Arizona. On a guided tour, we learned about Wright’s philosophy of organic architecture and how he strove to integrate nature and his buildings. After a couple of hours, the kids left with a book of puzzles from the gift shop, and I left with a desire to learn more about a true American innovator, Frank Lloyd Wright. So, a few weeks later, when I happened upon the book Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, I impulsively bought it. And, boy, am I glad I did.

Loving Frank tells the love story of Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney. In 1903, Mamah and her husband, Edwin Cheney, commission the popular local architect to build them a home in Oak Park, Illinois. During the project, Frank, the married father of six, and Mamah, the mother of two, connect emotionally, and, in 1907, their physical affair begins. Frank and Mamah soon leave their families and escape to Europe together.

Beautifully written, Loving Frank is historical fiction at its best. There is nothing artificial or contrived about the drama or dialogue. Horan fully understands and reveals her characters—their strengths, flaws, and perspectives. I couldn’t put the book down—not because it’s an action-packed page-turner but because I became so vested in Mamah, the main character.

Horan’s words gently swirl around you and pull you into the mood and mind of Mamah, an accomplished and forward-thinking woman who’s living within the social constraints of her time. Mamah’s voice is real and relatable; her conflicts between motherhood and selfhood are timeless and universal. From the outside, Mamah seemed to have what all women want—a beautiful home and family—but she wanted more from her life, from herself. She traded security for passion, and she put her own needs over those of her children. Throughout the story, she struggles with the results of these decisions and is in turn elated and desperate in her life with Frank, and I felt connected to her through her humanness.

Be prepared; Loving Frank is one of those novels that stay in your head. It will require at least a few days to shake, especially because of the abrupt and shocking ending. I found myself telling anyone who would listen about the story and asking, “Would you leave your kids for love…or to find yourself?” I may not have agreed with Frank and Mamah’s decisions, but through Horan’s character development, I understood why they did what they did, and I was rooting for them to find their happily ever after.

Like Wright’s organic architecture, Nancy Horan’s characters and their timeless moral questions involving love, duty, and passion are sure to integrate themselves into your consciousness.

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