Louisa May Alcott
Ages 14 and up
Penguin, 1996, 0140367144
When we last saw her Jo Bhaer was living in a large, somewhat ramshackle old house which was filled with lots of boys of all ages and two little girls. She and her husband had a special sort of school and home for these children and every one these young people were dear to Jo and her husband. Ten years have gone by and now that same old house is looking much more prosperous. Near by there is a new college where Mr. Bhaer works and he and his wife get to spend as much time as they please with the young men and women students who attend the college.
And what of those little men and women whom Mrs. Bhaer raised so well? Most of them are very grown up now, or are almost so. Nate will soon be leaving to go to university in Germany and Dan has just got home after having all kinds of adventures in wild places. Demi is a reporter and Emil has gone to sea, just as he planned all those years ago. Nan is studying to become a doctor and poor Tom is trying to like medicine for her sake as he follows her about with a love lorn expression in his eyes. Most of the original boys and girls from Plumfield have come back to the beloved house for a short vacation and we get to see how they have changed in the ten years that have gone by.
Then they go off again, back to work, to college, and out into the big world. Most of them get into all kinds of trouble as they try to build a life for themselves. In Germany Nate adopts a way of life that ill suits him and that he cannot afford. Poor Dan’s temper gets the better of him and he ends up in prison. Tom goes on a cycling trip and comes home engaged. Emil’s ship ends up sinking and he and the passengers on his ship are left stranded in a small boat in the middle of a huge ocean.
All in all it turns out to be quite a year and back in “Old Plum” Mother Bhaer waits and hopes, prays, and advises, trusting that her little flock will eventually come home to her safe and sound.
In this final volume of the story of the March girls, we get to see how Jo’s beloved boys, and girls, grow up. How they struggle to overcome their weaknesses, how they fall in love, and how they find their places in the world. We come to appreciate how a mother worries about her children long after they have grown up and how she can still offer them her help even when they are too big to sit in her lap. Through her poignant and sympathetic prose the author lets us watch these young people as they struggle with the growing up process. Though the tale and its morals may seem old-fashioned to some, it still has enormous appeal and though the problems the young people encounter may be different from the ones we have to deal with today, there is still a relevance to our lives which will never go away.
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