During times of war, every person must make their own choices—and their own sacrifices. In Great or Nothing, a creative retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women co-written by Joy McCullough, Caroline Tung Richmond, Tess Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood, Meg, Jo and Amy March face choices and sacrifices after their sister Beth dies and the United States enters World War II.
The novel opens a few months after Beth’s death. The remaining March sisters have had a bitter falling-out and are scattered across the world. Jo has given up writing and moved to a big-city boardinghouse to work in an airplane factory. Amy has set aside her art, lied about her age and, without telling her family, joined the American Red Cross in London, where she serves as a Clubmobile girl. Meg has remained at home with Marmee to teach high school English and wait for John Brooke to return home from the war.
Each sister struggles with her choices and who she is growing up to become. Amy wrestles with the secret life she’s living, which becomes a bigger issue when she encounters Jo’s friend Laurie in a hospital in England. Jo yearns to write again and to understand how she feels about her adventurous reporter friend, Charlie Yates. Meg feels like she isn’t doing enough for the war effort, isn’t strong enough to hold her family together after Beth’s death and wonders whether marrying John, whom Amy has dismissed as a “boring old fuddy-duddy,” will make her happy. And Beth, who contributes sections in verse from beyond the grave, longs to intervene and wonders whether the choices she made in life were the right ones.
Great or Nothing will be enjoyed equally by devotees of Alcott’s classic novel and by readers who are completely unfamiliar with it. Alcott fans will delight in the creative ways the tale has been adapted to its 1940s setting, and the novel is full of clever Easter eggs.
Impressively, Great or Nothing also tells a cohesive, complete story through four distinct voices in four separate narrative threads, each written by a different author. By the end, readers will feel unique connections to each sister and their motivations, heartbreaks and joys. This is a compelling and tender historical coming-of-age novel with wide appeal.