In the opening chapter of Carolyn Cooke’s “Daughters of the Revolution,” two young men go kayaking off the coast south of Boston. It is 1963 and both men are graduates of the Goode School, a redoubt of WASP privilege. One of them, Archer, comes from money and the other, Heck, comes from moderate means and continues to struggle. Heck packs sandwiches for them both in hopes that Archer won’t suggest they eat at a restaurant; when the weather turns bad, he notices that Archer has helped himself to the only life jacket in the boat. Issues of entitlement become a matter of life and death.
The book that spills forth from this dramatic scene suggests that, as Robert Penn Warren once wrote, “you live through . . . that little piece of time that is yours, but that piece of time is not only your own life, it is the summing-up of all the other lives that are simultaneous with yours. It is, in other words, History, and what you are is an expression of History.”