Picoult, Goodwin to speak

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MANCHESTER — Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and novelist Jodi Picoult will both be speaking in Manchester this month, in separate appearances sponsored by the Northshire Bookstore.

On Tuesday, Goodwin, a presidential historian and Pulitzer-winning author, will release her newest book, "Leadership in Turbulent Times." The following week, on Saturday, Sept. 29, she'll be discussing it with WAMC Northeast Public Radio host Joe Donahue at Maple Street School. The event, which has a $35 entrance fee, will also be filmed by GNAT-TV.

"Leadership" juxtaposes the four presidents Goodwin has studied most closely — Lyndon B. Johnson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt — to show how the men recognized their leadership qualities, as well as how people recognized them as leaders.

By looking back at their first entries into public life, readers encounter the men "at a time when their paths were filled with confusion, fear and hope," according to publisher Simon & Schuster.

"It does speak to today in the sense that it sets a standard for what leadership looked like in really turbulent times, worse than ours," Goodwin, whose book "Team of Rivals" was adapted into the Oscar-winning film "Lincoln," told the Journal.

"There's no reason to believe, if we've gone through tougher times before, between leaders and citizens alike, that we cannot do it again," she said in a phone interview.

On Wednesday, Sept. 26, Picoult will be discussing her latest novel with Vermont author Chris Bohjalian in a public event, also at the Maple Street School. "A Spark of Light," to be released October 2, is a tale about "ordinary lives that intersect when a gunman takes a women's health center hostage," according to publisher Penguin Random House. It's Picoult's second trip here in as many years, as she appeared alongside John Grisham here last summer.

Tickets to the talk, on a $35 or $50 sliding fee, will benefit the Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. Dafydd Wood, events manager at the Northshire Bookstore, said the venue can hold up to 389 people, and he expects both author events to be sold out.

Picoult said her 25th book was born of the personal knowledge that a woman's views about reproductive rights can change through the course of her life.

"What a woman feels is right at 16 might not be what she feels at 30 or at 43," Picoult said in an email interview with the Journal. "Laws are black and white, but women are a thousand shades of gray - which is what makes legislating reproductive rights problematic."

No matter how someone feels about gun rights, no one thinks school shootings are good, Picoult said. Reproductive rights, on the other hand, she said, are more contentious since people who are pro-life or pro-choice have valid reasons for their beliefs.

"I would never presume to tell any reader what to think," the novelist, who describes herself as pro-choice, said. "But I do think that the book will make all readers question their beliefs and maybe see the other point of view for the first time in an empathetic light."

Picoult added that the U.S. Senate's upcoming vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh necessitates the honest conversations that her book could trigger.

Goodwin, who started writing "Leadership" five years ago, said she didn't realize how relevant her book on the four presidents would be in the current political climate.

"When I looked at the qualities that defined these leaders - empathy and humility, resilience, listening to others and perseverance and keeping one's word, courage and consistency - these are the qualities that seem to be absent in our leadership today," she said, citing the extremely polarized politics that has resulted in legislative gridlock and the passage of laws designed to merely benefit political parties.

But history apparently also shows change can happen through the efforts of ordinary citizens working with their leaders.

"We'll figure out somehow to get through this and come out stronger," Goodwin said. "As FDR said, problems created by people can be solved by people."

If she has time during her trip to Manchester, the historian said she again hopes to visit the Hildene, the Lincoln Family Home.

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