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The Little Women Letters    by Gabrielle Donnelly order for
Little Women Letters
by Gabrielle Donnelly
Order:  USA  Can
Touchstone, 2012 (2011)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Elizabeth Crowley

Great-great grandmother Jo March had always been the butt of jokes among the Atwater sisters. But when Lulu Atwater stumbles across some of Josephine March's letters, a very different image begins to emerge of the woman Lulu and her sisters always imagined as old and terribly boring. The Little Women Letters is a celebration of Louisa May Alcott's classic, Little Women. As readers begin to immerse themselves in the novel, they will see Jo, Meg, Amy, and Marmee in Donnelly's characters.

When Lulu finds Jo March's letters in her mother's attic, she begins to realize that Jo March was very much like herself. Jo was the middle child, who had impossible standards to live up to when it came to her perfect older sister. Lulu's oldest sister, Emma, had a brilliant education, has the perfect job, and is about to marry the perfect man. Meanwhile, Lulu has a degree in Biochemistry and has yet to settle into a proper career. Lulu's much talked about lack of a relationship is also a thorn in her side when it comes to her family.

As Lulu continues to read Jo's letters, she discovers that Jo had another sister, Amy, who was quite pretty, yet prone to theatrics. Jo's younger sister reminds Lulu of her own younger sister, Sophie, who is an aspiring actress but somewhat reckless and unreliable. Although Lulu very much loves her little sister, her eccentric and selfish ways irritate Lulu to no end. Those who have read Little Women will notice that the author especially emphasized the resemblance in the relationships between Jo and Amy and Lulu and Sophie.

Jo's letters also reveal the heartache caused by the loss of the youngest March sister who died at a young age. Although Beth March's death is a well known fact among the Atwater family, Jo March's heart breaking letters to her dead sister, make Lulu reflect on what it would be like to have one of her sisters suddenly taken from her. Soon, Lulu begins to make excuses to spend hours reading and rereading great-great Grandma Jo's letters. Lulu begins to realize that although Josephine March was not blessed with riches or great beauty, she considered herself blessed by the deep bond she shared with her family.

Little Women fans will find much to love in this wonderfully charming novel. Although it's set in the twenty-first century, Jo March's letters transport readers back into the lives of Jo, Beth, Meg, Amy, Marmee, and Laurie. Gabrielle Donnelly did an exceptional job at recreating Jo's letters. Her strong grasp of Victorian language will make you feel you are reading a long forgotten chapter of Louisa May Alcott's novel. If you can't get enough of Little Women, The Little Women Letters will create a whole new addiction for you as Jo March's wit and humor reappear in a twenty-first century novel.

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