I had to ask: Team Laurence or Team Bhaer? Editors Merry Gordon and Marnae Kelly talk Jo March’s ending, how they’d put the March sisters to work at Pink Umbrella Books (not just work of course – they’d go on holiday too), and surprises for fans in the to-be-released anthology, Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy.
Jo March’s ending – Jo with Friedrich Bhaer, Jo with Theodore Laurence, Jo single, or something else?
MERRY: I’m Team Friedrich. Unpopular opinion, perhaps, but Laurie is such a puppy.
MARNAE: I’m a big Bhaer fan because of the equality of minds in that relationship and the opportunities for growth in both characters.
Who of all the March sisters would you go on holiday with, where would you go, and why?
MERRY: I’d take an English holiday with Jo – specifically to hit up the literary landmarks, as we are kindred spirits that way.
MARNAE: A literary holiday with Jo would be fantastic, but I would also love a good introverted “staycation” with Beth. If I’m not out seeing the world, my favorite place to be is under a cozy blanket at home.
If you had to change everything but one thing about Little Women, what would you keep?
MARNAE: Yikes, that would be hard. But if I absolutely had to change everything else, I would keep the relationships between the March sisters. All of the ups and downs they go through are so relatable still and are absolutely key for shaping each of them. To me, that feels like the heart of Little Women.
MERRY: I can’t imagine changing anything. I know that seems like such a trite answer and a bit of a dodge, but the book is such a product both of its time and its author’s unique biographical circumstances, and I think it marvelous that Little Women still speaks to us as it is, in spite of what we might see as its flaws (its occasionally didactic nature, the failure of the women to “establish” themselves in careers in a modern context, etc.).
If each of the March sisters worked at Pink Umbrella with you, what jobs would they have?
MERRY: Jo would write and edit, of course. Amy would illustrate. I think an adult Meg, given the economic straits she experienced, might have a better head for finance than she thinks, and Beth would keep the whole establishment cozy.
MARNAE: Merry pretty much nailed it, but I could also see Beth being some kind of creative director. Or putting together the soundtracks for our book trailers. Something behind the scenes but important nonetheless.
How did your idea for the Little Women anthology come about? Any surprises in the mix for fans?
MARNAE: Merry was definitely the mastermind behind the anthology. It’s been such a pleasure to work with her and all of the authors to put it together.
Little Women first impacted my life when my mother read it out loud to me, and one of my strongest childhood memories is crying with her when Beth died.
Louisa May Alcott didn’t just write a very good piece of children’s literature; she created a home for readers around the world to return to again and again. I think that comes through in the anthology. So many different backgrounds and experiences come together because Little Women has touched them all.
MERRY: Little Women has always been on my radar, since I was a child. It’s something of a pivotal read for many girls, and I found myself returning to it at different seasons in my life (particularly when I had daughters).
I participated in a Jane Austen anthology about a year or two ago, and aware that the 150th was coming up for Little Women, I thought a similar anthology would be an appropriate tribute to a book that’s impacted so many of us.
Surprises? – I had anticipated a rather Jo-heavy book, but I was surprised to see many of our authors write movingly about Beth. There is a sweet homage to Meg, a few spirited defenses of Amy, a great discussion about why Jo didn’t end up with Laurie, and then some fascinating personal connections.
Our authors touch upon doll collecting, grieving, introversion, the ecology of Concord, the Boston Marathon bombing and racial profiling, reading Little Women as a large Italian family in New York, teaching the book in college – there are so many wonderful perspectives in the book. I’m delighted to be part of it, and to connect with a community of readers who are as passionate about the book as I am.
The [Little Women] 150th celebration is Louisa’s own legacy…We are delighted to be even a little part of it. Marnae will be unable to make it due to prior commitments, but she is having her well-deserved “Meg moment” just now and enjoying life as a newlywed, and I’m so happy for her!
Merry Gordon and Adrienne Quintana (owner of Pink Umbrella Books and Marnae’s big sister) will be at the Little Women Anniversary at Orchard House on September 30, 1:00-4:30pm – along with some of the authors of the anthology, who I’m told will kindly sign copies available for sale on the day. 🙂
Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy is available for pre-order and purchase through Amazon. P.S. Incidentally, for fellow Team Laurence readers out there, the anthology includes an article titled, “Why Jo says no (and why we care).”