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The Little Women Letters
by Gabrielle Donnelly

Published: 2012-06-05
Paperback : 384 pages
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USA TODAY sings that “Fans of Louisa May Alcott can rejoice” thanks to this charming and uplifting story of the imagined lives of three of Jo March’s passionate, spirited descendants—that’s Jo March from Little Women!

With her older sister, Emma, planning a wedding and her ...
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Introduction

USA TODAY sings that “Fans of Louisa May Alcott can rejoice” thanks to this charming and uplifting story of the imagined lives of three of Jo March’s passionate, spirited descendants—that’s Jo March from Little Women!

With her older sister, Emma, planning a wedding and her younger sister, Sophie, preparing to launch a career on the London stage, Lulu can’t help but feel like the failure of the Atwater family. Lulu loves her sisters dearly and wants nothing but the best for them, but she finds herself stuck in a rut, working dead-end jobs with no romantic prospects in sight.

Then Lulu stumbles across a collection of letters written by her great-great-grandmother Josephine March. As she delves deeper into the lives and secrets of the March sisters, she finds solace and guidance, but can the words of her great-great-grandmother help Lulu find a place for herself in a world so different from the one Jo knew?

As uplifting and essential as Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Gabrielle Donnelly’s novel will speak to anyone who’s ever fought with a sister, fallen in love with a fabulous pair of shoes, or wondered what on earth life had in store for her.

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Discussion Questions

1. Jo March writes in a letter from 1888, “times are changing for girls, blessedly” (page 2). What new liberties does Jo enjoy during her lifetime, according to her letters? How does Fee Atwater continue her great-grandmother’s passion for women’s rights?

2. Emma, Lulu, and Sophie have different reputations in the Atwater family: Emma is responsible, Lulu is challenging, and Sophie is dramatic. When does each sister act out of character and defy her family’s expectations? What are the results?

3. When Lulu begins reading Grandma Jo’s letters, she decides, “at the moment she felt she rather needed something that was only hers” (page 126). Why does Lulu choose to keep Jo’s letters to herself? How does Lulu decide when it’s time to share Jo’s legacy?

4. As Lulu traces the March family history to the present, she picks up on some hereditary traits: “They had shared long faces—which Fee and Sophie had inherited, but not Emma or Lulu—political awareness, and an interest in the arts” (page 127). What else has the Atwater family inherited from the March family? Which of the March sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, or Amy—does each Atwater sister resemble most? Which sister are you most like?

5. When Lulu begins reading Jo’s letters written in New York, she believes, “The past was safe and held no surprises; the past, she knew, had a happy ending” (page 189). What surprises does Jo’s past hold after all? How does Lulu react when Jo’s New York adventures end unexpectedly? What does Lulu learn about relationships and love from Jo’s letters?

6. Discuss how Jo mourns Beth in her letters. Why does Jo write to her sister after her death? After Fritz’s proposal, Jo writes, “I think I shan’t write to you again, Bethie” (page 326). Why is it time for Jo to stop writing to Beth?

7. Consider the novel’s London setting. How does London look, sound, and feel in the novel? What do the sisters love about living in London? How does Emma feel about moving away from the city?

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  "The Little Women Letters"by LynnL716 (see profile) 12/06/11

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