Meg and Jo
by Virginia Kantra
PRH | Berkley
Formats available: Trade Paperback, Electronic, Audio
Pub Date: 12.3.19| 400 pages
REVIEWER: Sophia Rose
The timeless classic Little Women inspired this heartwarming modern tale of four sisters from New York Times bestselling author Virginia Kantra.
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. https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/622044/meg-and-jo-by-virginia-kantra/9780593100349
Book was provided by the publisher. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
In the 150th year since Little Women was originally published, we get a fresh, modern take on Louisa May Alcott’s endearing classic about the four March sisters. I’ve already enjoyed this author’s books for her thoughtful way of writing a romance and not being afraid to dig deep into deeper subject matter, so I was curious to see what she could do with a modern retelling.
Meg and Jo is the title, but also the focus on the oldest two March sisters who alternate the narration every other chapter though fans will discover that the whole family along with the Lawrences next door, a certain Aunt, John, the twins, and Professor Bhaer who is now a cook are very much present though they all get an update. Seeing how each character and many of the key story elements translated into modern times is all part of the fun in a retelling and Meg and Jo did not disappoint
Meg is living her dream as a woman with home, husband, and family, but she feels there is something lacking in her life and in marriage; the dreamy picture isn’t what she thought it would be. Meanwhile, Jo is fierce about her independence and her dreams to write and be a success in the big city though she has lost her newspaper job, can’t seem to write her book and now works a restaurant and writes an indifferent food blog. Their mother’s desperate need brings Jo back to the home farm and the sisters discover that what they dreamed about isn’t gone for good just lost as they chased for it in all the wrong places.
Fans of the classic will see a decent nod toward Alcott’s work with lots of Kantra’s originality and style (Beth has a different fate and Mr. March does as well) while those coming to the story without having read or watched an adaption will do just fine as the story could be read as a heartwarming women’s fiction crossed over with contemporary romance.
Now, while I can say that I found this engaging and enjoyable especially seeing flawed characters struggling along find inner strength, connection, and yes, love, I feel obliged to say that if one were looking for a close connection to Little Women that it will be moderate. What I mean by that is that from my perspective, I felt that some of the time I was reading about characters who shared names and some similar circumstances with those in the original, but they didn’t necessarily resonate like the original characters. Kantra’s characters are edgier versions and don’t always think or act as I remember Alcott’s characters. I found them less likable at times. In fact, I never did warm up to Trey, the modern version of Laury. But, that said, I’ve learned that the author plans a sequel with the focus on the younger two sisters, Beth and Amy, so maybe Trey has some personal growth coming, too. Then there was Jo and her dad issues that is not present in the original, but a big part in her journey of self-discovery in this one.
I don’t mean to make it sound like I disliked the book or that it failed as a retelling. Far from it. I found the focus on sisters and their relationships as well as the insight into their relationships with their parents, friends, and love interests engaging. Some might even find it easier to go in thinking of this not as a retelling, but just a solid women’s fiction and contemporary romance crossover.
Either way the reader approaches the book, I think it will be engaging for them and I can definitely recommend it for this holiday season treat.