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Dear Bob, Dear Betty: Love and Marriage During the Great Depression by Elizabeth Catherine Wright
In 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, two young people meet and fall in love. Llewellyn Wright (Bob), Frank Lloyd Wright’s youngest child, whose adolescence was marked by the public scandals surrounding his father’s private life, is struggling to begin a private law practice in Chicago. Elizabeth Kehler (Betty), daughter of a Chicago artist who abandoned the family when she was still in the womb, is working as an intake counselor at the Milwaukee Vocational School. Their fervent correspondence over a 10-month courtship period is witty, sassy and poignant, as they grapple with their passionate feelings and try to create a financially stable marriage in the midst of the 20th century’s most serious economic crisis. The couple’s daughter, a scholar of French literature, has written an Introduction telling their story before and after the courtship. 35 illustrations, extensive footnotes and an Index illuminate the family and social history behind the letters.
I was really excited about getting to review this book. I adore a good love story. I’ll be honest though, I opened it, got into the first few pages and thought, I am never going to finish this. The biographical information behind Bob and Betty was kind of dry and just wasn’t something that made me crave more. But, that being said, let me come back to the beginning of the book in a bit.
Once I got into the letters, I was hooked. Both Bob and Betty have this dry, sarcastic little bit of humor in them that comes out here and there. I loved it. I think we all have a bit of a voyeur in us. Whether it be driving by the scene of an accident really slow or witnessing an engagement before us as we sit enthralled, waiting for the answer. This is like the second example. Watching Bob and Betty’s romance unfold through their letters was so neat. Elizabeth Catherine Wright put a lot of work into the details behind her parents’ letters. She researched libraries, newspapers, so many sources, and they are all footnoted throughout the book. We even get to see scanned copies of some of the letters and envelopes.
Betty lived in Milwaukee and Bob lived in Chicago. Theirs was a long distance romance. Bob was determined to have money in the bank when they got married. During the Great Depression, that was next to impossible. I read how Betty would get excited when the government would release funds for the state employees to be paid. She would have money on hand. Can you imagine, working, and working, and working some more and not knowing when you would get paid for your hard work?
They both have this wonderful sense of humor that comes through when they are teasingly chiding each other. I loved those parts best.
Back to the beginning, once I read the whole book and knew all about Bob and Betty, the information at the beginning became more important to me. I went back and reread it, including all the footnotes, which I had skipped over in the beginning, and had an ah-ha moment.
It was fabulous. A beautiful love story throughout the letters, but I kind of felt bad for Betty when I reread the biographical information at the beginning to remember that during the marriage, Bob wasn’t as attentive as he was during their courtship.
Bob and Betty are no longer with us, but their story lives on in this book. I think that their daughter did a fabulous job compiling the letters and all of the historical references to go with it for the readers. I really enjoyed it!
Thank you to AME, INC. for providing me with a copy of Dear Bob, Dear Betty: Love and Marriage During the Great Depression . It was a lovely story that I think I will find myself rereading.