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My Heart is Boundless: Writings of Abigail May Alcott, Louisa's Mother Paperback – November 6, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
Edited skillfully by LaPlante (a member of Alcott's family tree), this thoroughly engaging collection of Abigail May Alcott's warm and lively writings, primarily drawn from her journals and letters, show her to be a witty, eloquent, thoughtful, and captivating writer and correspondent. Born into a prominent Boston family, thirsty for an education, and engaged by the social topics of her time (including abolition and women's rights), Abigail soon found herself in a troubled marriage to utopian thinker Bronson Alcott. The trials of her married life—especially their financial woes—make appearances, as does the joy she took in her daughters and extended family, her strength of character, and a glimpse of sly humor ( I wish women displayed more brains and less jewelry ). Most fascinating are the excerpts from Abigail's reports as a welfare worker in Boston; her desire to provide work and just wages for the poor along with relief ring a startlingly contemporary bell. Though one could certainly read this volume on its own, LaPlante's companion biography, Marmee & Louisa (pubbing simultaneously) will undoubtedly help to fill in gaps. And although some of Abigail's correspondence was destroyed or altered by family members, one hopes that further volumes of her extant work might one day be released to shed even further light on this remarkable woman. (Nov.)
LaPlante’s unearthing of the forgotten papers of her ancestor, Abigail May Alcott, mother of the revered author of Little Women, generated her mother-daughter biography, Marmee & Louisa, and this first collection of Abigail’s writings, including autobiographical sketches, journal entries, and letters. Of particular significance is Abigail’s correspondence with her brother, Samuel Joseph May, a prominent abolitionist. LaPlante organizes this eye-opening and vibrant volume by such subjects as “Motherhood” and “Employment,” but these headings give little indication of the lively intelligence and unquenchable spirit at work as Abigail expresses love for her children (baby Louisa is “a sprightly merry little puss”), her belief in good works, and her despair over the deprivations that prevent her from living a life of the mind: “If trial and friction make strong and bright, I shall be strength and brilliancy personified.” Indeed, Abigail is resilient, loyal, “theatrical, poignant, passionate, and often satirical,” devoted to liberty and Louisa’s literary efforts. Sleuth and scholar LaPlante has immeasurably enriched American letters by reclaiming “an American writer and thinker who has for too long been ignored.” --Donna Seaman
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Top customer reviews
It was believed that Abba's journals and letters were burned by Louisa. However, that was not the case and Ms. LaPlante, a relative of the Alcott family, stumbled across a treasure trove. Ms. LaPlante does a wonderful job creating this book from Abba's writings. The author adds notes so the reader is not confused by events. At the end of the book there are also recipes and remedies.
This book has Abigail's letters and notes from her journals compiled for the first time. It is obvious that Abba was a brilliant writer herself, and a strong woman with some radical views. She believed women should vote and she believed there should be an end to slavery. I daresay she was a feminist as well because she wanted justice for women.
After being silenced for so long Abba has a voice and it rings loud and clear. The letter and journal entries are moving. You can feel the poor woman's sadness as she writes about Liz's death, or feel her frustration when she tries to figure out what the family will do for money. Time and time again she is thanking relatives for handouts. We see she how she loves her daughters and she encourages Louisa to write. Abba has such wonderful advise. Among one of her little notes is " a woman may live a whole life of sacrifice and at her death meekly say I die a woman. A man passes a few years in experiments on self denial and simple life and he says, "behold a God." The waning years are also sad as we see the woman struggling to be an active part of the family but her body was failing her. However, thankfully Louisa's wealth was able to give her mother some comfort in the later years.
I was going through a difficult time when I read this book and Abba's writings helped me. Her struggles, the love and hope for her children and the frustration of her financial situation were captured in her journals and letters with such honesty. They spoke to me, and my copy is now worn and tattered. I wish a hard copy could be obtained.
Those who wish to know more about Louisa May Alcott must read this book. I still argue that it was her mother, not her father, who shaped Louisa into the woman she was. Those who study the Victorian era or women during the time period will find a treasure trove of information on a woman's daily plight.
HIstorically accurate, set in the Boston area the Alcott's lives brushed those of many famous persons of the time, the Peabodies, the Emersons, the Hawthorns etc.