The Revelation of Louisa May

Michaela MacColl. Chronicle, $16.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4521-3357-7

As in Always Emily and Nobody’s Secret, MacColl again delivers a historical novel based on a 19th-century writer and her problematic family: this time Louisa May Alcott and the community of transcendentalists in Concord, Mass. Set over a few days in the summer of 1846 when the 15-year-old budding writer is in charge of the household, the story compellingly presents the conflicts between principles and practicality, as Louisa’s challenging relationship with her idealistic father, Bronson, grows especially fraught. She also faces a slew of unexpected problems, notably the arrival of a noxious slave catcher in pursuit of the fugitive slave the Alcotts are harboring, who seems to have potentially harmful information about their good friends Henry Thoreau and the Emersons. On his heels comes distant cousin Fred, suddenly grown tall and handsome, with a new interest in Louisa. Intrigue quickly builds on several fronts, and a climactic crisis forces Louisa, with sister Beth’s help, into some detective work, delivering a resolution that is likely to surprise. An author’s note recounts the factual bases for the novel and includes Alcott’s biographical information. A satisfying, thought-provoking read. Ages 12–up. Agency: Sterling Lord Literistic. (Apr.)