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The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

Kelly O'Connor McNees


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Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (3/31/2010)


A richly imagined, remarkably written story of the woman who created Little Women—and how love changed her in ways she never expected.

Countless readers have fallen in love with Little Women. But how could the author—who never had a romance—write so convincingly of love and heartbreak without experiencing it herself?

Deftly mixing fact and fiction, Kelly O’Connor McNees returns to the summer of 1855, when vivacious Louisa is twenty-two and bursting with a desire to free herself from family and societal constraints so she can do what she loves most. Stuck in small-town New Hampshire, she meets Joseph Singer, and as she opens her heart, Louisa finds herself torn between a love that takes her by surprise and her dream of independence as a writer in Boston. The choice she must make comes with a steep price that she will pay for the rest of her life.

Praise For The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

“Devotees of Little Women will flock to this story with pleasure.”—The Washington Post

“A charming novel, grounded in scholarship and fact but relying on imagination for the romance and fun.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

Berkley, 9780425240830, 384pp.

Publication Date: May 3, 2011

About the Author

Kelly O'Connor McNees is an editor and the critically acclaimed author of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott and In Need of a Good Wife. She lives in Chicago with her husband and daughter.

Conversation Starters from

Have you ever read a poem or book that profoundly challenged or changed your worldview? How might the events of the novel have differed if Walt Whitman had not published Leaves of Grass in the summer of 1855?


What is Louisa’s relationship like with each of her sisters? Do any of these relationships change throughout the novel? If so, how? Do you think Louisa’s identity was defined by her sisters?


Abba says that men and women experience love differently: “For a man, love is just a season. For a woman it is the whole of the year.” Is that true in The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott? Is it true in your own personal experience?


Bronson Alcott was a truly unusual father and man. What is your impression of him? How do you think he affected his daughters, and did he affect each one differently?


Describe Bronson and Abba’s marriage. Do you think it influenced Louisa’s view of matrimony? If so, in what way?


Was Louisa right not to go with Joseph Singer to New York? Why or why not? What would you have done?


Why was Louisa so protective of her independence? Considering the greater opportunities available to women now, but also the frenetic pace of their lives and, in some ways, more complex obligations, do you think she would be as protective of her independence if she lived today?


At one point Abba tells Louisa, “We must never give if we are hoping for something in return.” Why does she say that? Do you think what she says is true?


At the end of the novel we learn that Louisa is taking care of her niece Lulu. What kind of parent do you think Louisa would be, and why?


Louisa tells Joseph, “My life is no longer my own.” And yet she chose to base Little Women, her most successful novel, on herself and her sisters. If writers use their own experiences as inspiration, are they inviting fans to pry into their personal lives? Or should their work be taken at face value?