cover image A Hopeful Heart: Louisa May Alcott Before ‘Little Women’

A Hopeful Heart: Louisa May Alcott Before ‘Little Women’

Deborah Noyes. Random House/Schwartz & Wade, $18.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-525-64623-5

This well-researched account of Louisa May Alcott’s amply documented life is differentiated by Noyes’s emphasis on the toxicity of Bronson Alcott’s Transcendental beliefs, Abby Alcott’s frustration and resourcefulness, and their family commitment to abolitionism. Direct quotes from primary sources depict the idealism-induced instability of Alcott’s socially privileged but impoverished youth—friends with luminaries including Thoreau and Emerson, but “poor as rats” due to her father’s unwillingness to earn a living. Buffeted by her turbulent family, Alcott stepped up to provide. Ironically, Little Women, a book she reluctantly wrote and which transmuted her flawed family into the idealized Marches, finally won Alcott “the fortune and fame she had craved.” Though Noyes’s adroit biography covers key details, Alcott is overshadowed by her charismatic parents, while her fictional alter ego, Jo March, remains the benchmark for insights into the author’s heart. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. [em](Oct.) [/em]