louisa may alcott book coverReviewed by Jennifer Jensen

For author Kelly O’Connor McNees, Little Women was a novel that created a lasting impression on her. As an adult, she read many biographies on the famous author Louisa May Alcott and discovered there was a missing piece in her life story: she never seemed to have had any suitors. Even Jo, the heroine of Little Women and Louisa’s alter ego, found love and happiness later in her life. In her debut novel The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, McNees draws from Louisa May Alcott’s journals and letters to authentically place her in a fictional setting in which she must make a life-altering decision: write or marry for love.

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott is a vivid imagination of the summer months in 1855 when Louisa and her family lived in Walpole, New Hampshire. Fiery and independent Louisa only has one thing on her mind: saving up enough money selling her stories so that she can move to Boston and pursue her dreams of becoming a famous published author. Because of her father’s pursuit of education, Louisa is largely responsible for paying her father’s debts and putting food on the table.

Louisa’s desire for independence is tested when she forms a tentative friendship with Joseph Singer. Bonding over the poetry of Walt Whitman, Louisa and Joseph begin to fall in love. When Joseph’s father uses him as a pawn to pay off his life debts, there is no hope for him of a marriage with Louisa. Finally retreating to Boston to begin her new life, Louisa discovers it isn’t as easy as she had anticipated. Joseph’s unexpected arrival and proposal offer her the chance for a fresh start, but the opportunity to publish presents itself and Louisa must make the ultimate sacrifice.

Having read Little Women and knowing a little bit about Louisa May Alcott, it was no mystery to me how the story would end. Even so, I couldn’t help but wish she would choose love over publication. Unfortunately for the times in which she lived, having both a family and a writing career was nearly impossible for a woman. Had she lived today, she could easily have had both.

Though Joseph Singer was not a real person in Louisa’s life, he felt incredibly warm and real to me; his pain and anguish at losing the love of his life was extremely authentic. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott is a love letter to a truly extraordinary woman who was advanced in her ideas for the times in which she lived, and will be a treat for those who hold Little Women close to their heart.

For more information, please visit Kelly O’Connor McNees’ website

Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.

This book was provided free of any obligation by Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.