I read two blogs by writer friends lately—thank you, Vicki Batman http://plottingprincesses.blogspot.com/2015/12/best-of-best-mfrwauthor-rssossisters.html and Ava Cuvay http://wordwranglers.blogspot.com/–that talked about favorites and books that “rocked your world.” Like everyone else who’s ever opened a book, I have some, ones that hold warm places in my reader’s heart whether I’ve read them ten times, like Gone With the Wind, or only once, like Sense and Sensibility. However, if I could have only one very favorite book to spend my desert island years with, it would have to be Little Women. This was the book that made me know at the age of nine or so what I wanted to do when I grew up. Who I wanted to be.
This is the book I literally wore the covers off of—more than once. It’s the one I actively seek out movie adaptations of and watch them—yes, more than once. I even use pieces of it in my own books. The bookstore in Back to McGuffey’s is called Louisa’s Garret. One of Grace’s cats in One More Summer is called Louisa May. The bed and breakfast in Because of Joe is called Plumfield and the rooms are—surprise!—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.
And I remember. I remember celebrating the rightness of the way things happened. Meg and John Brooke’s courtship and marriage. The birth of the twins, Daisy and Demi. That Jo cut her hair. That Mr. Laurence gave Beth a piano.
I remember crying, oh my gosh, so hard when Beth died. When Jo spurned Laurie. When Laurie proposed to Amy. When Jo and Professor Bhaer walked under the umbrella.
But, you know, I’m a grownup now. I should have put away childish things like my love for this book. But I haven’t. Because, like the way I love my husband of 44 years and my kids and grandkids, the love I have for this book changes and remains (to me) interesting.
Although I was heartbroken that Jo didn’t marry Laurie, I loved Professor Bhaer, too, and I was good with Jo marrying him. I have never—and it’s been 50-some years in case you’re counting—been good with Laurie marrying Amy. Because she married his money and he married Jo’s sister.
But things change.
I still love Professor Bhaer, but it’s no longer okay with me that Jo married him. He should have waited until John Brooke died (it was only ten years) and married Meg. Or, better yet, Beth should have lived and he could have married her. Amy should have married Fred Whatshisname (also for his money) and puttered around Europe, only showing up back in Concord to pass around expensive gifts and put on airs.
Because, you know, Laurie and Jo never fell out of love. Ever. I know that just as certainly as I know Scarlett got Rhett back. (I knew this without Alexandra Ripley having told me so. In fact, I wish she hadn’t, but that’s a different post.)
Just as my feelings about “how things came out” in Little Women change, so does how I think about other things. One of my favorite movies ever is The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. I watch it a few times a year. Laughing. Cherishing. But if a new movie came out with a hero who manhandled the woman he loved the way Sean did Mary Kate, I wouldn’t watch it. Not for one minute. In the vintage one, though, it’s the tenderness that grabs and holds me—and I can’t find that in a new movie no matter how hard I look. The portrayal of that is something that has changed and I wish it hadn’t.
What book (or movie) maintains its place in your heart and on your shelf even though your feelings about it may have changed? Or not.