Lorena (“Hick”) Hickok is a talented journalist who writes and is extra fond of bourbon. It’s a pattern that doesn’t cause harm, but instead fuels her drive and performance. Now, she is given the assignment to interview someone in FDR’s campaign, in particular Eleanor Roosevelt. At first, Eleanor is aloof and allows Hick brief moments of connection. But it isn’t long before she and Hick are secret lovers. Eleanor also reveals her passion for the poor and downtrodden, expressed passionately as she and Hick begin to trust each other more. Eleanor indicates that she sees the position of First Lady as an obstacle to the causes she truly wants to embrace; however, it is Hick who convinces her she can do both: support the President and proceed with her own agenda. After FDR wins the election, Eleanor sends Hick to investigate the terrible living conditions of Scotts Run, West Virginia during the Depression, a situation that will horrify and repel the reader into caring as much as Hick does.
The remainder of this story is a revelation indeed about the darker side of social justice, the demands of the First Lady and the reality that everyone is expendable. McNees’ novel is bound to elicit numerous comments and criticisms. The portrayal of this hidden affair implies Eleanor’s actions are always self-serving and Hick is a sidenote. Hick has lost her friends to catering to Eleanor but thankfully evolves into a woman dramatically changing the lives of the poor in West Virginia. Interesting and revealing historical fiction that opens up another layer of the FDR and Eleanor administration.