Today’s post by Amy Hill Hearth
From the time I was very small and, in fact, before I could read, I was aware that I had been named after a character in a novel.
That book was Louisa May Alcott’s LITTLE WOMEN. My mother, as she so often told me, had been re-reading it while she was pregnant with me, the youngest of her four children. Back when I was born in the late 1950s, labor was not induced as commonly as it is today. A late baby was a late baby. I was supposed to be born on my dad’s birthday, March 29. When that didn’t happen, the doctor predicted April 1 but my mother, not wanting me to be burdened with an April Fool’s Day birthday, stayed very still all day in the hope that she could hold off my birth another day. Her plan worked too well: I wasn’t born until April 10. As my petite mother grew larger and larger (I weighed 9.2 pounds by the time I arrived), and more and more impatient for my arrival, she turned to literature as a way to divert and calm herself. She escaped into the familiar company of Marmee and her four daughters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March.
I am probably one of the youngest persons ever to read LITTLE WOMEN. My connection to the book made it irresistible. I was perhaps 7 or 8, so I didn’t comprehend parts of it. I spent a lot of time asking my mother questions and running to the dictionary to figure out the meaning of certain words.
I was a little shocked that Amy March was not the nicest or most admirable of the four daughters. Of course, this required an explanation from my mother. She explained that Meg was short for Margaret, and Jo was an abbreviated form of Josephine. Neither of those names was particularly popular when I was born, and she hadn’t wanted me to be burdened with a name I didn’t like. (This is the same woman who tried not to give birth to me on April Fool’s Day, after all.) She went on to say that she could not possibly have named me after the third sister, Beth, because poor little Beth dies in the novel.
Besides, Amy was the youngest of four children, and blonde, just as I was.
I re-read the novel about once a year, and as time went on, I grew to appreciate Amy March. While on first reading she seemed like a whiny little twit, her antics began to seem more charming through my adult eyes.
When I began writing my own novel, I couldn’t resist finding a way to mention LITTLE WOMEN. Set in Collier County, Florida, circa 1962, MISS DREAMSVILLE is the story of a middle-aged wife and mother from Boston who moves to the area with her family, and instantly manages to offend almost everyone in the small, Southern town. One of the first things she does is start a reading group. And, of course, one of the books they read is LITTLE WOMEN.
It’s my way of paying tribute to Louisa May Alcott as well as to my mom, who is now 87 years old.
We’re giving away a copy of Amy’s debut novel MISS DREAMSVILLE AND THE COLLIER COUNTY WOMEN’S LITERARY SOCIETY. Simply leave a comment on this post and we’ll toss your name in the hat. (U.S. residents only)
In 1962, Jackie Hart moved to Naples, Florida, from Boston with her husband and children. Wanting something personally fulfilling to do with her time, she starts a reading club and anonymously hosts a radio show, calling herself Miss Dreamsville.
The racially segregated town falls in love with Miss Dreamsville, but doesn’t know what to make of Jackie, who welcomes everyone into her book club, including a woman who did prison time for allegedly killing her husband, a man of questionable sexual preference, a young divorcee, as well as a black woman.
By the end of this novel, you’ll be wiping away the tears of laugher and sadness, and you just may become a bit more hopeful that even the most hateful people can see the light of humanitarianism, if they just give themselves a chance.