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Extended Audio Sample Marmee & Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother, by Eve LaPlante Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (269 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Eve LaPlante Narrator: Karen White Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Based on newly uncovered family papers, this groundbreaking and intensely moving portrait of Louisa May Alcott’s relationship with her mother will completely transform our understanding of one of America’s most beloved authors.

Since its release nearly 150 years ago, Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women has been a mainstay in American literature, while passionate Jo March and her calm, beloved “Marmee” have shaped generations of young women. Biographers have consistently credited her father, Bronson Alcott, for Louisa’s professional success, assuming that this outspoken idealist was the source of her progressive thinking and remarkable independence.

But in this riveting dual biography, Eve LaPlante explodes those myths, drawing on unknown and unexplored letters and journals to show that Louisa’s “Marmee,” Abigail May Alcott, was in fact the intellectual and emotional center of her daughter’s world. It was Abigail who urged Louisa to write, who inspired many of her stories, and who gave her the support and courage she needed to pursue her unconventional path. Abigail, long dismissed as a quiet, self-effacing companion to her famous husband and daughter, is revealed here as a politically active feminist firebrand, a fascinating thinker in her own right. Examining family papers, archival documents, and diaries thought to have been destroyed, LaPlante paints an exquisitely moving and utterly convincing portrait of a woman decades ahead of her time—and the fiercely independent daughter who was both inspired and restricted by her mother’s dreams of freedom.

A story guaranteed to turn all previous scholarship on its head, Marmee and Louisa is a gorgeously written and deeply felt biography of two extraordinary women as well as a key to our understanding of Louisa May Alcott’s life and work.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “‘Let the world know you are alive!’ Abigail Alcott counseled her daughter, who amply did, having inherited her mother’s spirit and frustrations, diaries and work ethic. Along the way Louisa May Alcott immortalized the woman in whose debt she understood herself to be and who ultimately died in her arms; Eve LaPlante beautifully resurrects her here. A most original love story, taut and tender.”

    Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times bestselling author of Cleopatra: A Life

  • “This is an important book about an important relationship. Writing engagingly and with precision, Eve LaPlante sheds new light on the Alcott story, a story that is in some ways the story of America.”

    Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times bestselling author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

  • “In this meticulously researched look at Louisa May Alcott and her mother, LaPlante shatters myths about the supposed passive Marmee, replacing them with a portrait of a woman who fought for a woman’s right to education, professional and maternal satisfaction, and power.”


  • “Engrossing… LaPlante, a descendant of the Alcotts, pursued this untold story after discovering forgotten journals and letters in an attic trunk. In her skilled hands these documents yield Abigail unabridged: a thinker, writer, activist, wife and mother who held fast to her convictions in the face of terrible suffering.”

    Washington Post

  • “This revealing biography…will forever change how we view the characters and their relationships in Louisa’s novels… Through LaPlante’s book we see how Louisa drew heavily from Abigail’s life experiences in her own writings…Alcott fans who revel in LaPlante’s biography can read to the very last page and then turn to a bonus… companion volume, My Heart is Boundless, writings of Abigail May Alcott.”

    USA Today

  • “An intimate portrait of mother and daughter, showing how their lives were profoundly intertwined in ways that some biographers have underplayed or ignored altogether…[A] fascinating story of two visionary women”

    Boston Globe

  • “A revelatory dual biography… LaPlante makes a convincing case that Abigail’s doggedly pragmatic responses to the intertwined and ongoing catastrophes of Bronson’s inconsistent emotional involvement and the family finances left an indelible impression on Louisa, who vowed from an early age to take care of her mother…demonstrates that Abigail’s daughters were her dreams made manifest.”

    Seattle Times

  • “[An] involving mother-daughter portrait…and a fresh perspective on Louisa….Louisa’s unconventional father, Bronson, has received far more attention than his long-suffering, feminist wife…Her own dreams cruelly thwarted, Abigail brilliantly nurtured Louisa’s literary genius. Although bitter ironies mark each woman’s story, vividly set within the social upheavals of the Civil War era, their profound love, intellect, and courage shine.”

    Booklist, starred review

  • “Convincingly argued… Of interest to anyone who enjoys mother/daughter stories, American history, or literary studies… In the winter season, when many of us will cue our DVD players to the opening scene of Little Women, Marmee & Louisa is well worth a read.”


  • “Eve LaPlante’s Marmee & Louisa is a heartwarming and thoroughly researched story of family interdependence very much in the style of Louisa’s own unforgettable Little Women. No other biographer has examined so thoughtfully and with such compassion the mother-daughter relationship that supported both women through decades of adversity and brought a great American novel into being.”

    Megan Marshall, author of The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism

  • “Compelling… LaPlante admirably seeks to paint a fuller picture of Abigail and her role in Louisa’s life….[and] allows her protagonists to speak for themselves.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “LaPlante sheds light on Abigail May Alcott… [who] is shown to have been a remarkable intellect and a progressive who played a primary role in Louisa’s life. LaPlante pays meticulous attention to primary sources, delving into the surviving diaries of mother and daughter. This heavily researched double biography serves as a kind of twin to John Matteson’s Eden’s Outcasts. Nineteenth-century New England literature buffs and Alcott aficionados will appreciate this well-wrought study.”

    Library Journal

  • “[Marmee & Louisa] shows just how much iconic children’s author Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888) ‘was her mother’s daughter’… previously undiscovered family papers and untapped pages from Abigail’s dairies…provide new evidence exposing her undeniable influence on her daughter…Fresh material gives flesh to the formerly invisible Abigail, revealing how she and her famous daughter mirrored one another…Thoroughly researched and moving.”

    Kirkus Reviews

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Jennifer | 2/12/2014

    " This is a well-written book that explores a new perspective on who was behind Louisa May Alcott's success. Her mother was the one who was there for her at all times, encouraging her and being a true role model. So often Bronson Alcott is given the lion's share of credit for Louisa's success, even though he didn't support the family financially and was an absentee parent most of the time. It is very clear from this book that Marmee was the heart and soul of a family that had to cover for their philosophical but morally bankrupt father. This book was written by a relative of the Alcott's, and while it may show bias here and there, it drew upon letters and diary entries that enriched the story. Five stars. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Jen Hagmeier | 2/9/2014

    " A little dry sometimes but good. Makes me want to go re-read "eight cousins" and all the others. :). (not little women tho--think I've read that enough times for the next thirty years or so....) "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Deb.mcquillangmail.com | 2/3/2014

    " Having grown up near Concord, MA and having visited many of Louisa's homes makes this book all the more interesting. I am also inspired to read and reread her works. Can't believe how useless her father really was. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Kristi | 1/31/2014

    " It's wonderful to finally have a book dedicated to the relationship between Louisa May Alcott and her mother, Abigail May Alcott. LaPlante does well to bring Abigail to greater attention. Abigail Alcott was a dynamic, passionate, strong and inspiring woman. This book is a nice compliment to John Matteson's recent biography of Louisa and her father, Bronson Alcott. However, I do not think that Laplante has matched Matteson's accomplishment. I do not think that LaPlante's book makes significant revelations regarding the mother daughter relationship relationship, nor do I agree that Abigail's influence on her daughter has been ignored or dismissed by Alcott's scholars. LaPlante, who is a distant cousin of Louisa May Alcott, uses biographical readings of Louisa's fiction that are focused toward the influence of Abigail and the May family, to demonstrate Abigail's influence on her famous daughter. While this approach is valid, it is also limiting. I was furthermore deeply saddened by LaPlante's negatively biased portrayal of Bronson Alcott. He was a flawed individual, but he was not all bad. Abigail loved her husband deeply and had good reasons to do so. A more balanced portrayal would have done better justice to both Bronson and Abigail. This is something which Matteson achieves that LaPlante has not. What LaPlante succeeds at is bringing Abigail to the fore of the Alcott story. She should be commended for this. In several instances she does make good use of unpublished archival material. One of the strongest aspects in the book is LaPlante's treatment of Abigail's relationship with her brother Samuel Joseph May. I think LaPlante might have done well to have written her book about sister and brother rather than mother and daughter, as it often felt that her narrative was pulling in the direction of Samuel May and that this is where her interest truly lay. It would have made for a compelling story,as well as one new to scholarship. "

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About the Author

Eve LaPlante is a great niece and a first cousin of Abigail and Louisa May Alcott. She is the author of SeizedAmerican Jezebel, and Salem Witch Judge, the winner of the 2008 Massachusetts Book Award for Nonfiction. She is also the editor of a collection of Abigail May Alcott’s private papers. She lives with her family in New England.