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The Revelation of Louisa May by Michaela MacColl


Topics of Interest: historical fiction, transcendenatlism, mystery, Little Women, American Literature, family

Curriculum Connections: English, Philosophy, Equity Studies

Gender: F/M

Age: 12+

Blurb: I spent much of my childhood in a little cabin next to a lake in Wisconsin. And I do mean little. It had a main room and a loft with two beds—one for my parents and one for my sister and me to share. Despite our cramped quarters, living there was a blast. We ran around outside until the sun went down so it didn’t matter that the place was tiny. We just needed a roof over our heads at night.

On rainy days my sister and I played with our cousins in the loft. We loved card games, but we also spent a good amount of time pretending to be Charlie’s Angels. We karate-chopped our way through many an afternoon, and when we got tired, we slowed things down by pretending to live in a little house on a prairie. My mom made us bonnets so we even looked like Laura Ingalls and her sisters.

Looking back, I’m surprised that we didn’t act out Little Women. I’m sure we had all read the book, but perhaps we couldn’t agree on who would play Beth. Nobody ever volunteers to be the dead character.

The Revelation of Louisa May brings (back) to life Louisa May Alcott just before her sixteenth birthday. Longing to spend her days writing, she instead keeps house and cares for her family when her mother takes a job away from home.

Cooking and cleaning isn’t too bad, but Louisa’s life gets difficult when a “package” shows up at her door followed closely by a slave catcher keen on reaping the finder’s reward. Suddenly Louisa is harbouring a fugitive and keeping secrets from everyone she knows.

When the slave catcher is murdered, Louisa discovers that nearly everybody in town has a motive for his death—even her own father and his friends Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Louisa knows that can’t return to her writing until she solves the mystery and clears her father’s name.

But how do you find a murderer when everyone looks guilty?

Flavour: “’Marmee! You can’t leave me here to do everything! Beth’s no help—she’s still recovering from her winter cold. And baby May won’t do anything but draw. You expect me to do all the cooking and cleaning and the shopping and take care of them, too? I’ll never have the chance to write.’” (6)

Next to the parlor’s big bay window there was a dark figure, barely visible against the olive color of the house. Suddenly the figure blinked, revealing the frightened white of his eyes. She realized that his darkness was not the cover of night but the color of his skin. ‘What’s your business here?’ she asked, her voice stern. ‘Excuse me, Miss.’ The man’s voice was deep and hesitant. ‘Are you the Stationmaster?’ Louisa sighed. Exactly what the Alcott family needed right now. Another fugitive slave.” (9)

“Then she was running, faster than she had ever run before. She hurtled into the clearing in front of the Emerson’s gazebo, then she stopped short as though she had run into an invisible wall. [The slave catcher] was lying on his back on the ground. He was perfectly, unnaturally still. His arms were spread out and a crimson stain spilled across his white shirt. A few feet away, her father was pushing himself up from the ground to his knees, one hand cradling the back of his head. Blood seeped through his fingers.” (162)

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