A Historian Makes Peace With Her Own History

After Doris Kearns Goodwin’s husband died nearly six years ago, the couple’s home, a 19th-century farmhouse in Concord, Mass., no longer felt right.

“We were there for 20 years,” said Ms. Kearns Goodwin, 81, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian whose new book, “An Unfinished Love Story: A Personal History of the 1960s,” will be published April 16.

“It was a house we had loved, and a house that in many ways we had built together,” she continued, referring to assorted refinements, including the three-car garage that became a library and the addition of a tower inspired by her husband’s fascination with Galileo.

There was a gently gurgling fountain in the backyard, a curved wooden bench, abundant flowering plants and a pond populated with koi. Inside were books — some 10,000 of them — arranged by category and subject matter, and dispersed to shelves in almost every room. “All that we loved was there,” Ms. Kearns Goodwin said.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote her new book, “An Unfinished Love Story: A Personal History of the 1960s,” in a three-bedroom apartment in Boston. Her primary sources for the book were the letters, diaries and other ephemera amassed by her husband, Richard Goodwin, who died in 2018.Credit…Tony Luong for The New York Times

Suddenly, though, the house felt too big. And everywhere she turned she saw her husband of 42 years, Richard N. Goodwin, the brilliant, rumpled Zelig-like figure who, in his 20s, was a special assistant to President John F. Kennedy and forged an enduring friendship with Jackie Kennedy and, in his 30s, was a speechwriter and adviser for President Lyndon B. Johnson and Robert F. Kennedy. “Mr. Goodwin called himself a voice of the 1960s, and with justification,” noted his obituary in The New York Times.

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