by Geraldine Brooks
Letter-writing is a lost art. Even those who write letters regularly can find it a struggle, especially when writing to someone one loves and admires, and especially when one's own circumstances are less than admirable. What is there to say when the truth seems too ugly to recount? This is a problem faced repeatedly by the idealistic Civil War chaplain, Peter March, who is obliged to regularly send charming reassurances home to his wife, Marmee, and his four "little women." March is a good man, but his lofty ideals are getting splattered with mud and blood and reality, and, after a year in the war he may not even be sure he deserves to come home.
Brooks faced quite a challenge in creating a "missing" character from a classic novel, making sure he could be as compelling as the familiar faces of "Little Women," but she's succeeded brilliantly. March, based somewhat on Louisa May Alcott's father, Bronson, is a character all his own, and he adds a lot of humanity and imperfection to Alcott's original tale. Highly recommended.