When was the last time you tore through a whole book in a day, practically in one sitting? That’s what happened for me with this book, so before you read on, you already know: I loved this story about Meg and Jo from everyone’s favorite classic Little Women, only they are placed in a contemporary setting and “all grown up.” Such a fun concept, and the author pulled it off big-time.
A big **THANK YOU** to Berkley Publishing for giving me the chance to read this book ahead of time through NetGalley, and then for sending me a hard copy prior to its release date so I could feature it on my bookstagram account. Read on for a synopsis, my candid/unbiased review, and some of my favorite quotes.
Title: Meg & Jo (Amazon, Goodreads)
Author: Virginia Kantra
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Retelling
My Rating: 5 / 5 stars
The March sisters—reliable Meg, independent Jo, stylish Amy, and shy Beth—have grown up to pursue their separate dreams. When Jo followed her ambitions to New York City, she never thought her career in journalism would come crashing down, leaving her struggling to stay afloat in a gig economy as a prep cook and secret food blogger.
Meg appears to have the life she always planned—the handsome husband, the adorable toddlers, the house in a charming subdivision. But sometimes getting everything you’ve ever wanted isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
When their mother’s illness forces the sisters home to North Carolina for the holidays, they’ll rediscover what really matters.
One thing’s for sure—they’ll need the strength of family and the power of sisterhood to remake their lives and reimagine their dreams.
I absolutely loved this one. Full disclosure: I am not a die-hard Little Women fan to begin with, so that may have meant I went into reading this with different expectations for it. I didn’t feel that it needed to “fall into line” with the original flavor and feeling of the story. That said, I do like the original book quite a lot, and there was a lot of carry-over in terms of personality traits, witty dialogue, and overall relationships and intertanglings of emotions, and that made me happy.
Let’s talk first about the characters. I’ve always been a really big fan of Jo (what book nerd isn’t?) for doing what her heart tells her, being honest with herself and others, and not letting anyone else push her around. And this Jo absolutely lives up to those qualities. I loved seeing her trying to find her feet in New York, and floundering when the dreams and plans she’d set out for herself didn’t quite match reality. I think the portrayal of her trying to find her way in her late 20s is something that most modern women can relate to, and I hungrily read her chapters. I will admit that I have also always loved Meg, because I am a rule-follower and have always taken my responsibilities seriously, and I love those qualities about Meg. I feel like this retelling got her personality absolutely perfectly, and really showed how that personality could create for difficulties in a marriage–particularly a contemporary marriage where husband and wife are much more looked at as “partners” who split all the duties, rather than the mom having her home sphere and the husband having his work sphere, and never the twain shall meet. I found the portrayal of Meg’s marriage, the difficulties her husband has with her “do it all” mentality, to be extremely accurate and really made me think about my own marriage and how communication works (or doesn’t) within it. It was great!
The character who was perhaps the most different from the original book was Laurie (his name is Trey in this story), the boy next door who is Jo’s best friend. But because I’m not super strongly tied to how things were written in the original, I actually really liked the way this character was reinvented. I also happen to know that there is another book coming from Kantra, titled Meg and Amy and it is my feeling that we will get to know Trey a whole bunch more in that one. So I won’t say too much, but I did like how he interplayed with Jo as well as with the other March sisters, and I thought he provided a nice counterpoint to the flaring romance between Jo and Chef Eric. It just worked.
Okay, so in talking about characters, I guess I am just talking about everything overall. There was just so much going on in this book, and I ate it right up. Aside from what I mentioned above, we also get a taste for the modernized Amy and Beth characters, and I loved both of them as well. Amy started out seeming like a caricature of a spoiled pretty girl. But then, that’s kind of what she was in the original book too, no? There were more layers of depth added as the story went on, and I look forward to the next book where we will get to know her even better. I also found the story arc for the March parents to be extremely relatable and compelling, if bittersweet. I won’t say more because I want to keep this spoiler-free.
Anyway, I give this one two big thumbs up, and if you like contemporary fiction that is a reworking of an old classic, with big and lively female characters and relatable modern problems, then this book is totally for you. If you’re a DIE-HARD Little Women fan, it’s possible you’ll be disappointed or frustrated, but I still would recommend giving it a try. Can’t wait to read the next one!
“My sister only wanted me to be happy. In her world, as in Shakespeare’s comedies, marriage was a restoration of the social order. I couldn’t get her to see that my staying single was not a tragedy.”
“We had always been close, paired together in age like Jane and Elizabeth Bennet. (In my imaginings, of course, Meg as Jane, and I was snarky, independent Lizzy.)”
“‘Oh, the horror. Appearing in public without mascara? They’re going to revoke your Southern Woman card for sure.’”
“‘Ouch. Your dog bit me,” I said, handing her to Aunt Phee.
‘She’s not used to so many people,’ Aunt Phee said.
‘Neither is Jo,’ Amy said. ‘But you don’t see her biting anybody.’
‘Give me time,’ I said.”
“My sister’s dessert choices, like everything else in her life, were sweet, traditional, and family approved. There was a lesson there somewhere.”
“I’d always done my best to follow my mother’s rule, No snacks before mealtime. But some days required chocolate. Or vodka, my sister Jo’s voice said in my head.”
“I didn’t need him to be a saint or an angel. I just wanted him to act like a dad. What was missing in us, or in him, that made him go away? That made him available to everybody but us.”
“‘You know what your problem is?’ Amy demanded.
‘I’m sure you’re going to tell me.’
‘You pigeonhole everybody. Like we have to fit into the same little boxes we had when we were kids. The responsible one. The smart one. The talented one. The pretty one. But real people aren’t all one thing. We’re all mixed up.’”
“We were still us, I thought, looking around at my sisters. There was no one else who shared our history, who spoke our secret language, who could summon the past or drive me crazy with a single word.”
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