The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

Publisher Amy Einhorn Books, April 1, 2010

Few novels play a more prominent role in American girlhood than Little Women. Since it was first published in 1868, millions of girls have cheered on the spunky Jo March as she proved girls could be tough, funny, and as smart as any boy.

But Little Women fans have always been puzzled by the novel’s conclusion. Why won’t Jo marry Teddy Laurence—”Laurie”—the charming neighbor who confesses he’s loved her all her life? God knows Louisa got enough letters from fans begging her to let them end up together. Could it be that Louisa knew more of heartbreak than her biographers believe and hoped to spare poor Jo the same?

Readers will find an answer in THE LOST SUMMER OF LOUISA MAY ALCOTT, a wonderful debut novel by Kelly O’Connor McNees. In the summer of 1855, poverty forced the Alcott family to move to Walpole, New Hampshire. Here mercurial, clever Louisa meets the winsome but fictional Joseph Singer, who is immediately smitten with her. She can sense a threat to her dreams of becoming a writer and resists his affections. But when Louisa discovers he shares her interest in the controversial Leaves of Grass, just released on the Fourth of July, her longing for a kindred spirit quells her hesitation. Just as Louisa begins to open her heart, she learns that Joseph may not be free to give his away. Their newfound love carries a steep price, and Louisa fears she may pay with the independence she has fought so hard to protect.

Historical retellings like The Other Boleyn Girl, Loving Frank, Wintering, and Mr. Emerson’s Wife have demonstrated readers’ abiding interest in imagining the real lives of historical figures.

“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, 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

“A superb, thoughtful, and deliciously paced book that will hook lovers of history and Alcott alike. I enjoyed it tremendously.”
— Terry Gamble, author of The Water Dancers and Good Family

“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

“Richly imagined and gracefully told, McNees’ captivating story will delight anyone who loved Alcott’s feisty heroine Jo March.”
— Judith Ryan Hendricks, author of The Laws of Harmony and Bread Alone

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott