Great or Nothing book review

Great Or Nothing by Joy McCullough, Caroline Tung Richmond, Tess Sharpe, and Jessica Spotswood
400 pages
published March 8th, 2022

A reimagining of Little Women set in 1942, when the United States is suddenly embroiled in the second World War, this story, told from each March sister’s point of view, is one of grief, love, and self-discovery.

In the fall of 1942, the United States is still reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor. While the US starts sending troops to the front, the March family of Concord, Massachusetts grieves their own enormous loss: the death of their daughter, Beth. 

Under the strain of their grief, Beth’s remaining sisters fracture, each going their own way with Jo nursing her wounds and building planes in Connecticut, Meg holding down the home front with Marmee, and Amy living a secret life as a Red Cross volunteer in London–the same city where one Mr. Theodore Laurence is stationed as an army pilot.

Each March sister’s point of view is written by a separate author, three in prose and Beth’s in verse, still holding the family together from beyond the grave. Woven together, these threads tell a story of finding one’s way in a world undergoing catastrophic change.

Honestly, I didn’t like this at all! Beth, if not my favorite Little Women character, is my special interest at the moment, and when the story starts she is already dead, and the grief that the sisters experience drives them apart rather than together (which is very interesting). Jo is queer in this retelling, which is just barely an aside, and it feels like everything exciting and Little Women Traditional Canon happened before the events of the story. Also, everyone is very sad but nobody is very exact on what impact Beth had on their lives. Which is traditional Little Women canon but I’d like to see something different! Three stars. I’d check this out of the library but I wouldn’t buy it.

Bookshop link.

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