THE LOST SUMMER OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT

Kelly O'Connor McNees

A richly imagined, remarkably written story of the woman who created Little Women- and how love changed her in ways she never expected.

Deftly mixing fact and fiction, Kelly O’Connor McNees returns to the summer of 1855, when vivacious Louisa May Alcott is twenty-two and bursting to free herself from family and societal constraints and do what she loves most. Stuck in small-town New Hampshire, she meets Joseph Singer, and as she opens her heart, Louisa finds herself torn between a love that takes her by surprise and her dream of independence as a writer in Boston. The choice she must make comes with a steep price that she will pay for the rest of her life.

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A richly imagined, remarkably written story of the woman who created Little Women- and how love changed her in ways she never expected.

Deftly mixing fact and fiction, Kelly O’Connor McNees returns to the summer of 1855, when vivacious Louisa May Alcott is twenty-two and bursting to free herself from family and societal constraints and do what she loves most. Stuck in small-town New Hampshire, she meets Joseph Singer, and as she opens her heart, Louisa finds herself torn between a love that takes her by surprise and her dream of independence as a writer in Boston. The choice she must make comes with a steep price that she will pay for the rest of her life.

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  • Berkley
  • Paperback
  • May 2011
  • 384 Pages
  • 9780425240830

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$15.00

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About Kelly O'Connor McNees

Kelly O’Connor McNees is a former editorial assistant and English teacher. Born and raised in Michigan, she has lived in New York, Rhode Island, and Ontario and now resides with her husband in Chicago. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott is her first novel.

Praise

“McNees gets the period details just right: the crinolines and carriages; the spare, aesthetic plainness of 19th-century New England. And although the love affair with Joseph is invented, she remains faithful to the broad outlines of Alcott’s biography. In fact, The Lost Summer is the kind of romantic tale to which Alcott herself was partial, one in which love is important but not a solution to life’s difficulties. Devotees of Little Women will flock to this story with pleasure.”—The Washington Post

“I have read Little Women at least a dozen times, but Kelly O’Connor McNees has given me a gift I will not soon forget. Louisa May Alcott is no longer simply an icon to me but a real woman in all her complexity, one who lived life in spite of exploitation and the expectations of her day, never giving up on her dream. Her story is as relevant today as when Alcott bravely made her way. I can’t wait to give copies of this novel to all of my friends.”Cassandra King, author of The Sunday Wife and The Same Sweet Girls

“Mixing fact drawn from Little Women author Louisa May Alcott’s letters and journals with a longing to understand how Alcott-who is thought never to have been in love-could have written so movingly about it, Kelly O’Connor McNees delivers a wonderfully imagined, lively novel of first love herself. Louisa emerges as a spunky, honest heroine torn between her own personal love affair and the need to create more enduring stories that might console readers and lovers for generations to come.”—Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters

Discussion Questions

Have you ever read a poem or book that profoundly challenged or changed your worldview? How might the events of the novel have differed if Walt Whitman had not published Leaves of Grass in the summer of 1855?

 

What is Louisa’s relationship like with each of her sisters? Do any of these relationships change throughout the novel? If so, how? Do you think Louisa’s identity was defined by her sisters?

 

Abba says that men and women experience love differently: “For a man, love is just a season. For a woman it is the whole of the year.” Is that true in The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott? Is it true in your own personal experience?

 

Bronson Alcott was a truly unusual father and man. What is your impression of him? How do you think he affected his daughters, and did he affect each one differently?

 

Describe Bronson and Abba’s marriage. Do you think it influenced Louisa’s view of matrimony? If so, in what way?

 

Was Louisa right not to go with Joseph Singer to New York? Why or why not? What would you have done?

 

Why was Louisa so protective of her independence? Considering the greater opportunities available to women now, but also the frenetic pace of their lives and, in some ways, more complex obligations, do you think she would be as protective of her independence if she lived today?

 

At one point Abba tells Louisa, “We must never give if we are hoping for something in return.” Why does she say that? Do you think what she says is true?

 

At the end of the novel we learn that Louisa is taking care of her niece Lulu. What kind of parent do you think Louisa would be, and why?

 

Louisa tells Joseph, “My life is no longer my own.” And yet she chose to base Little Women, her most successful novel, on herself and her sisters. If writers use their own experiences as inspiration, are they inviting fans to pry into their personal lives? Or should their work be taken at face value?