Why was the March family so poor?

Far from being the sainted mother of Louisa May Alcott‘s LITTLE WOMEN, Marmee in Sarah Miller’s re-telling has a temper, and one sudden outburst of boiled-over fury ruined her family.

What to do when your husband spends all his money on others?

The cover of Sarah Miller’s MARMEE which beautifully evokes the setting of Little Women.

How I LOVED Marmee’s voice. The poor woman is so compassionate towards everyone. Her cross to bear is that she is married to a man who is just as kind as she.

But instead of raiding the pantry as Marmee does, husband Amos raids his salary to help others, meaning that he sends his wife less and less each month.

How is a single woman with her husband away at the front going to be able to feed and clothe SIX PEOPLE? When her husband only sends 39 dollars (instead of his actual salary of $150), because he “knows” that she “will not mind” that he spent the remainder of his salary on boots, blankets, and cloaks for his men.

Thankfully, Jo, Beth, and Hannah (Marmee’s beloved maid-of-all-work who has been with her forever and knows all her secrets) don’t care how they look. But what is she going to do about MEG, who is expecting a SILKEN PARASOL for her birthday? Or AMY, who requires FINERY and ART SUPPLIES?

Fortunately, Marmee is extremely resourceful, but she could not have pulled off such a miracle without the kindness of her wealthy next-door neighbor, Mr. Laurence.

The World of Little Women

The photo shows the author in 1852 when when was about 20 years old.

And so we are off into the world of Little Women. We learn about Marlee’s dreams of a union between Laurie and Jo. Of her delight at Meg’s wedding to John Brooks. Of her equal delight when Amy is invited abroad on a European tour (and how she soothes Jo’s ruffled feathers before Amy appears.) We learn that Meg irritates her with her love of finery. That Amy irritates her with her snobbery. That she sees Beth as an angel. And that plain-spoken Jo is the daughter she feels the greatest kinship with.

It is fascinating to see the “backstory” of Little Women being so well laid out. We learn that Marmee has an even worse temper than Jo. And that she brought her family to ruin with a sudden, boiled-over fury.

Marmee bears a constant load of pain, grief, and regret, and yet she is a magnificent woman. I am one of those readers who was completely captivated by this book to the extent that I would have given it more than 5 stars if I could.

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