Book Review: Marmee by Sarah Miller


I cannot explain how happy this book makes me! Little Women is, far and away, my favorite novel and has been for the majority of my life. I have consumed this story in a myriad of different forms and have had so many surprising parallels between my own life and that of Jo March’s fictional one. But this book…oh, this book!

Here is our beloved Marmee’s soul laid out in her own journal entries. It was so brilliant to read the familiar plot points of Little Women but from Marmee’s particular perspective with all the hidden details that often fill a mother’s heart and mind. We are familiar with the Marmee who admitted to her spitting-image daughter Jo about her own struggles with her temper and indignation at the unfairness and injustices of the world. Furthermore, in this book, Miller expands upon those personal struggles and her journey through them and the life her beliefs and actions have built for her girls, her “little women”. Miller presents Margaret March as thoroughly human — loving, longing, struggling, working, and yearning. In the midst of “hoping and keeping busy”, we see the true needs of a woman, mother, wife, and friend presented in honest relief. Now a Marmee myself, I cried at portions, feeling indelibly seen and known in that particular capacity by this best of stories.

Before, I have always identified with Jo, but here in Miller’s well-researched and heartfully-rendered portrait, I blessedly saw my own heart reflected back at me in Marmee’s vulnerable humanity and the loving work of her life. I found myself yearning to be as lucky as John Brooke or Laurie or Birte Hummel, to be drawn into the warm circle of Marmee’s life.

It is also not only Marmee’s portrait that has been filled out by Miller’s pen. Grandfather Lawrence becomes a deeply-loving father figure that is sorely-needed, John Brooke a man thoroughly deserving of Meg and the Marches’ love (no matter Jo’s young protestations), and the Hummel family comes to rich life as full characters instead of a mere vehicle for lessons in kindness and sacrifice.

While Miller does indeed make some changes to this well-worn story, I found none of them to be detractors or detrimental to the effect of this gorgeous story. It is more than just a retelling, it is a new side of the much-beloved story of the March Family. Miller has drawn the stitches between the fictional Marches and the humanly real Alcotts tighter and embroidered them with stunning flourishes of growth, love, faith, hard work, and hope. I could not have asked for or even dreamed of a better novel with which to begin 2023. It has done my heart and soul unspeakable good and has become one that I will undoubtedly recommend over and over again. Thank you, Sarah Miller, for all your hope and hard work in producing a book of such feeling and skill. Thank you for giving me a story that shall find its way into my own Marmee’s hands as well as next to my childhood and anniversary editions of Little Women, in pride of place among my most cherished volumes. A place among my treasures, for that is what it is: a treasure.

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