In all honesty, I can’t say I’m “simply reading” this book. I’m actually reading it with a pencil tucked behind my ear because I feel compelled to underline so many passages. I’ve scribbled thoughts and ideas on nearly all the blank pages at the back of the book. I’ve read paragraphs aloud to my husband over morning coffee.
I don’t often read “history” books, although anything Doris Kearns Goodwin writes is at the top of my list in that genre. I devoured The Fitzgeralds and The Kennedys. I love watching her segments on Good Morning America. She has a unique view of American history, and presents it in a way that’s accessible, entertaining, and oh so informative.
Reading this book makes me want to ask my parents all sorts of questions – they who were young people on the cusp of adulthood during this very “unordinary time.” What was it like, I want to ask my father, whose own father worked on the assembly line at the Ford Motor Company Rouge plant during the time when Harry Bennet’s “goon squad” was busting any who dared mention labor unions. What was it like, I want to ask my grandmother, to feed your family based on what ration coupons were available, to do without sugar and coffee and eggs and meat? Where were you, I want to ask my mother, on the day bombs rained down on Pearl Harbor and you realized the world would never be the same? How did you decide, I want to ask my father, to quit high school at age 16, leave behind all your sweetheart, your family and the promise of your future, and join the Navy?
No Ordinary Time is a book that makes the reader think about all those things. In it you see the seeds of the world we live in now, the battles that were just beginning to take shape for civil rights and immigration reform, the need for defense spending to keep our armed forces ever at the ready. It’s a book that sends the imagination soaring into the future and wondering what historians will make of this time we live in now and whether they will call it ordinary.
It’s also a book about people – about FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt, and the odd but intense bond between them. It’s about the people they held closest to them – Missy LeHand, FDR’s beloved assistant; Joe Lash, the young man who became Eleanor’s surrogate son, closer to her heart in some ways than her four biological boys.
No Ordinary Time is a brilliant book, one that weaves the inner workings of the White House and the Home Front during the years of the Second World War, while foreshadowing the American to come.
It’s definitely no ordinary history book.
***Just Noted: Doris Kearns Goodwin is on the panel at Meet The Press on NBC, April 3, 2011***