“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.” ~ Emily Dickinson
“I have decided to stick with love . Hate is too great a burden to bear.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
In this turbulent time, you might be looking for a book, or other entertainment, that makes you feel good. I have a recommendation for you. I recently finished reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Somehow I missed reading it in school. I’ve seen three movie versions of the story and loved them all, so I want to see this latest version too. I missed it in the theater but being the story nerd that I am, I will watch it and make comparisons to all previous versions and the book.
The thing I’ve always loved about this story is the close family relationships. The way the March family looks for ways to help others, even though they are poor. They spread love wherever they go. That’s not to say they’re perfect. They make plenty of mistakes but their practice of helping those in need demonstrates that they are unique among their acquaintances. Their philanthropy rubs off on their surly neighbor Mr. Laurence and his grandson Teddy. Mr. Brooke, Teddy’s tutor also becomes part of the March family. It’s almost as if the March family are magnets for dejected, lonely, and wounded people. Something about the love they feel for each other bubbles over washing people to their shore where they are welcomed whole heartedly.
Some time last year, I listened to Anne Bogel’s new podcast “One Great Book”. This particular one was about the book Love Walked In by Marisa De Los Santos. Anne quoted Marisa as saying, I’m paraphrasing here, that she writes books that she hopes will make people feel good when they’ve finished reading. I love that philosophy. Those are the kinds of books I want to write and for the most part the ones I like to read. Because life is hard enough and it’s good to envision a world with lots of love in it. Little Women is a great example of that kind of book.
Some critics don’t like the book or the movies because the story is centered on the March sisters and their mother. But some of the most iconic books ever written were by and about women. I don’t want to make too much of the differences between male and female oriented books, though I do want to point out that in stories written by women, their protagonists have tremendous power over the men in their lives. Their power is subtle and non coercive, but highly effective.
The last chapter of Little Women, affected me the most. It’s Marmee’s 60th birthday. Jo and Friedrich have opened a school for boys in the house Aunt March left to Jo. The boys and the entire March/Brooke/Bhaer families have gathered for a lovely day of apple harvesting and feasting. The school is unique because the boys are treated with respect. They are encouraged to be themselves but always to think of others first. The celebration is full of warmth and love. Everyone is happy and fulfilled. They all honor Marmee and acknowledge that she is the heart of their family. The way Alcott wrote the scene, I couldn’t help but be affected by the shared affections of the characters. This is one of those rare books that made me want to savor the feeling it left instead of beginning another book right away.
There was one thing, however, that disappointed me at first. Jo was determined to open a school just for boys and not include girls. I didn’t understand that. Granted, the school took boys in need as well as boys who’s families could afford to pay, But previous to the last chapter, the book had been focused on the lives of the sisters, their dreams, their affection for each other and their choices to be the best women they could be. But then it occurred to me that Jo was performing a great act of feminism. What better way to change the world than to teach boys to respect and honor themselves and all people? The family already advocated for women. It was as if Jo saw where she could do the most good. I’m not sure Alcott even thought about this aspect of Jo’s decision to open a school for boys, but I’d like to think she did.
I highly recommend not only reading Little Women, but watching any or all of the versions as well to see how the story has evolved through the years. It’s a hopeful story and most of us can use a big dose of good feelings right now.
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Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2020
Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a little bit like Outlander in that it’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, novel. Except that Jenna’s life is shattered and she must find a way to put it back together. When she finds old journals, she joins consciousness with her three-times great-grandmother, Morgan, rather than traveling physically. She is able to come back at intervals and apply what she’s learned to her own life situations.
The Space Between Time is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords and for Kindle at Amazon, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical copy, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. Stay tuned for news when the audiobook version is published. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.