Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has authored another compelling book with the release of ‘Leadership in Turbulent Times.’ AP NEWSWIRE PHOTO

PAT DAVIDSON REEF

Leadership in Turbulent Times
by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Simon and Schuster 2018
Pages 370 Price $30

In an unstable world, reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s new book “Leadership in Turbulent Times,” is reassuring. Goodwin evaluates America through four of its presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson.It is a unique combination to explore together but an interesting combination to think about. Goodwin writes in a warm and intimate style about historic presidents who have had made America highly respected. She implies we have suffered many pivotal times in our history and America has always survived. This book is about two Republican Presidents and two Democrat Presidents and how they faced problems and made decisions.

Do great leaders appear when needed historically, or are great leaders born and live among us unrecognized? Certainly the four presidents explored by Goodwin bring that thought to mind.

Goodwin says,”There is no fixed time table which governs the development of leadership. Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson all possessed leadership capacities.” She relates that Lincoln grew up with hardship which influenced him to have ambition and became resourceful which helped him face the Civil War.

Theodore Roosevelt came to sense himself as a leader later in life. He had to prove himself as physically fit over an illness and became a hero in Cuba,actually leading American troops himself. He broke up the railroad monopolies, provided the nation with national parks, cleaned up the New York Police Department and inspired consumer protection laws.He stood alone on many issues, even within his own party.

Franklin Roosevelt was raised without siblings on the banks of the Hudson and had many privileges of wealth and education.  He had a variety of executive jobs in the navy, but came late to leadership. However, as president he was mature, had wisdom, brought us through World War II, and gave us Social Security.

Lyndon Johnson loved politics from the beginning and at the age of 22 gave a speech that led  to his ambitious goal to go to Washington. His greatest regret was his involvement with the Vietnam War. His greatest achievement was the 1964 Civil Rights Bill. His dignity, smooth transition after President Kennedy’s assassination was a difficult job. He did not have the polish of John F. Kennedy, but he was good at crisis management and made the nation stronger by uniting it.

What did all these presidents have in common? All the presidents had enormous ambition, drive, intelligence, common sense, and great endurance. Endurance perhaps was their greatest strength. Each had periods of depression. Each conquered personal losses.They all were great leaders in different ways. They were not without flaws. However, if you like to read about the human side of history, you will love this book. It gives an up close and personal view of the great leaders of our nation. It gives you a feeling of security that our nation has faced chaos before and survived. We will survive again in 2018.

***

The Reckoning
by John Grisham
Doubleday 2018
Pages 399 Price $29.95

Mysteries are a great escape. John Grisham’s novels always have the law as an issue. Originally Grisham was a lawyer and has written over 33 books and six great children’s mysteries.

Some  spellbinding adult novels include books such as “The Firm,’ “The Pelican Brief,” “A time to Kill” and “The Runaway Jury,” which all have been made into films.

Grisham’s new book “The Reckoning,” will not disappoint you. However, it does have many surprises and unusual twists of fate.

In the beginning the author allows us to see Pete Banning commit the murder. We find that out in the first 21 pages of a 399-page book. So I am not giving away the plot. The issue in the book is why does an upstanding man in a small Mississippi community in 1946 kill his minister in broad daylight, and immediately sends for the sheriff. The story is the defense of Pete Banning, a gentleman farmer of cotton, a husband, father, and World War II hero. It is a story of a small Mississippi town, its everyday people, the power of gossip, the importance of communication, and an awesome event that occurs which shocks the community.

Banning leaves a note for his sister Florry to tell his children Stella and Joel, who are away at college, that he has killed Dexter Bell the Methodist minister. The murder of the preacher is a nerve shattering experience for the whole community. No one knows why and Banning will not talk about it. Banning’s wife Liz is in a sanitarium due to a nervous breakdown. She hears about the incident but can’t reveal anything to shed insight on the tragedy.

As the book progresses many complications and surprises arise. Some of the plot gets long and choppy but all of it is fast paced and interesting as flashbacks occur describing Banning’s experiences in World War II. Like all Grisham books every page is an adventure. There is a murder, a defense, a mistaken identity, and piercing insight into a small southern town. To find out what happens to the Banning family, his home in Ford County, Mississippi, and his  children, you will have to read the book and decide for yourself whether “The Reckoning” was accurate and a good choice.

***

Eunice; The Kennedy Who Changed the World
by Eileen McNamara
Simon and Schuster 2018
Pages 300 Price $28

This wonderful new biography of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, born in Brookline, Massachusetts on July 10, 1921, and who died on August 11, 2009 is riveting. Eunice was the fifth child of nine children of Rose and Joseph Kennedy Sr. Although Shriver was educated at Manhattenville College and Stanford University, her father expected her to be a traditional woman, get married, have children and become a hostess for her husband. Joe Kennedy Sr. put the emphasis on achievement on his sons, Joe Jr. John, Bobby, and Ted. The girls  Eunice, Pat, Jean, Rosemary and Kathkeen (called Kick), were brought up with the same privileges of education and love as the boys, but expectations of achievement of the girls was different.

Eunice led the family, both her brothers and sisters, in her desire to make a better world. She was a visionary who was always trying to help others.(Sometimes she tried to help others, like Peter Lawford, but he did not want her help.) Her family loyalty was legendary and she campaigned for her brothers: J.F.K., Bobby, and Teddy in all their political campaigns passionately. She was a leader in the family who took care of Rosemary, her sister, who was intellectually challenged and needed extra guidance. It was because of Rosemary that Eunice became interested in raising money for the disabled and retarded, providing for their education, supporting protection laws,and their care. In 1962, Eunice founded Camp Shriver which started on her own Maryland farm known as Timberlawn and evolved into the Special Olympics in 1968.

A lifelong Democrat, Shriver was a key founder of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. She supported the creation of President Kennedy’s Panel on Mental Retardation and helped start many university programs for the study of the issue.

One of the most interesting parts of this book is that the author, Eileen McNamara, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist, quotes  personal letters from Eunice to her mother written in her youth. These letters show Eunice’s love for her parents  and eagerness to become closer to her mother. Rose Kennedy loved her children but was somewhat detached.

In 1953 Eunice married Sargent Shriver at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Her husband later became head of the Peace Corps and served as U.S. Ambassador to France.They had five children; Robert, Maria,Timothy, Mark, and Anthony.

A section in the book has photos of Eunice and her family which are moving. Eunice Kennedy Shriver represents a family of great patriots. They were not without flaws, but they gave to America their great, strong, competitive spirit which has made America a better place to live in today.

Pat Davidson Reef is a graduate of Emerson College in Boston. She received her Masters Degree at the University of Southern Maine.She taught English and Art History at Catherine McAuley High for many years.She now teaches at the University of Southern Maine in Portland in the  Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Classic Films. She recently wrote a children’s book,”Dahlov Ipcar Artist, and is now writing another children’s book “Bernard Langlais Revisited.”

 

Comments are not available on this story.