The Quiet Little Woman by Louisa May Alcott

Alcott, Louisa May. The Quiet Little Woman: A Christmas Story. Honor Books, 1999.

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

(Note: Books are rated from one to five smiley faces, one being a book I didn’t like very much, and five being a book I loved).

Every year, I hope to do things to make the Christmas season more enjoyable, more meaningful, and more relaxed. I hate to admit (being a minister’s wife) that I’m actually a bit “Scrooge-y” about Christmas. I can’t stand the materialism, and I’m the sort of person for whom one party every few months would be just fine. Party after party is a bit much for me. And let’s not talk about all the weight gain. I have to resign myself to ignoring all scales until mid-January, after a week of nibbling on lettuce leaves like a rabbit and exercising like a thoroughbred training for the Kentucky Derby. Even then, I have to peer through one eye as I survey the damage done between Thanksgiving and January 1.

So, this year, I thought, “What can I do differently?” Then I walked into the library, saw its Christmas book display, and came up with a solution. I’ll spend time this December reading some Christmas books and reviewing them here.

This was my favorite pre-read find, having been your typical young girl who read and reread Little Women enough times that I lost count. Not only was I hooked on Little Women as a girl, but I also vividly remember Christmas vacation when I was thirteen and discovered and read An Old-Fashioned Girl for the first time. And who doesn’t remember those opening lines from Little Women, “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents?” The Christmas season sings “Louisa May Alcott” to me. I’d never heard of this particular Alcott, though, which is actually three stories in one, all of which are Christmas stories. Thus, it made perfect sense for me to read and finish this book first.

I wasn’t disappointed. This was classic Alcott: suffering, kind, gentle children being rewarded in the end for their efforts (the sort of thing I loved as a child, because I was very aware from a young age that this hard, cruel, world doesn’t always work that way. I liked to escape into worlds that did). The last story, a fable involving a talking horse, was quite different from anything I’ve read by her, but still, that Alcott hoof print was on it: the horse who had worked so hard and had been so brave (despite a few human vanities. No one in Louisa May Alcott is ever beyond a few human faults, even when she’s a horse) is rewarded in the end.

Talk about a book to get the reader thinking about the true meaning of Christmas. I found myself wondering, “How have we moved so far away from those days [the late 1800’s] described in Alcott’s books and stories, when Christmas seemed to be so much more about giving and less about receiving?” In her fiction, people were always out delivering food and necessities to those in need (even those like the “little women” who didn’t have much to give themselves and who would probably be considered desperately poor by most Americans living today). I found myself thinking more about how to give to strangers, ways that I could help others more, wanting to deliver figurative baskets of ham and bread and stacks of firewood to those who don’t have the basics, which just goes to show maybe I’m not so “Scrooge-y” after all. Leave it to a book by a favorite childhood author to teach me that.