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Miss Alcott's E-mail: Yours for Reforms of All Kinds Paperback – August 1, 2007
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Debut author Bakke's enduring appreciation of Louisa May Alcott inspired a uniquely constructed epistolary bio-memoir in which Bakke and Alcott exchange e-mails across time, many on the subject of how women can maintain a life of purpose while entering middle age. This intriguing and lively imagery correspondence is interleaved with Bakke's historical essays about Alcott's life, which provide a concise biography of the women's-movement pioneer. Bakke also expresses an affinity for Alcott's abolitionist stance, which leads her to gloss over the violent acts of Alcott's great hero, John Brown, just as Alcott did. Bakke also reflects on her own radical past. As a former member of the Weather Underground, Bakke has experience with a revolutionary movement and the controversy it engendered and finds in Alcott a kindred spirit. Alcott fans will enjoy the biographical essays and keen manner in which Bakke assumes Alcott's voice and connects two distant eras. Readers interested in the 1960s protest movement will also find much to consider in Bakke's frank assessments of her own turbulent young adulthood. Colleen Mondor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
(An) excellent book...the effect is like a wonderful movie shot with a hand-held camera. --Washington Post Book World
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Top Customer Reviews
Using a unique writing style, Bakke first retells part of Miss Alcott's life story, taking time to weave her own reminiscences into the historical narration. She then "e-mails" the chapter to Louisa herself, who reacts and responds to what Bakke has written and continues the correspondence. Once we suspend our disbelief that this technique is possible, we find this a memorable format that's sure to appeal to readers who enjoy learning more from historical fiction than they did back in school history classes. Topics covered include Concord, Fruitlands, transcendentalism, the abolitionist movement, women's rights, writing, earning a living, dealing with family, and nursing. In see-saw fashion, both women discuss committing to a cause and doing what seems morally right in a situation. Bakke's involvement in the Vietnam anti-war movement and her career in the health profession make her the perfect person to relate to Louisa's own involvement in abolition and as a Civil War nurse. The biographical chapters and personal letters cause us to equate the 1860s with the 1960s, and we can understand the connections without being told they're there. The further along we read, the more we realize that our struggles are/were very similar. And we might speculate how far men and women have really come in the past century. Or not.
Librarians and bookstore clerks will struggle to figure out where to shelve this book, for it is fiction, biography, and contemporary memoir rolled into one package. I hope that dilemma doesn't deter its potential audience from finding it, for these pages are well worth delving into.
"Miss Alcott's E-mail" is a well-crafted book that should be read by many women and shared by mothers and daughters, especially when half of those readers (either the mothers or the daughters) are Baby Boomers who are part of Ms. Bakke's generation. The title will also appeal to book groups, since a set of beginning discussion questions appears at the end of the volume. Fans of the Transcendentalists should be pleased with this one as well.