Thursday, September 23, 2021

‘So Many Beginnings’ Review: Bethany C. Morrow Brings a Thoughtful Perspective to a Beloved Classic

In So Many Beginnings, Bethany C. Morrow is returning to the classics. The book comes as part of Feiwel & Friends’ remixed classics series. So Many Beginnings remixes Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. The year is 1863, in North Carolina. While the civil war carries on, the Freedpeople’s Colony of Roanoke Island begins to grow. It offers a haven for those recently freed from enslavement, offering Black people a community they create. Among them is the March family – Mammy and her four daughters Meg, Joanna (Jo), Bethlehem (Beth), and Amethyst (Amy). As they adjust to their new life, they finally have the chance to grow into their independence. Though they grapple with the echoes of the “old life,” they also experience love, heartbreak, health struggles, and fall into their new life together.

A quality I appreciated about Morrow’s writing is her decision to write as though this book is from the days of yore. Her writing style wholly embodies the trademark of many classics. This alone is enough to draw readers in. Her lyrical style creates an alluring type of yearning. Though she utilizes a similar style, she updates her language in a significant way; she replaces terms such as “slave,” “slave owner,” and “master” with “enslaved” and “enslaver.” She reminds readers of the humanity belonging to those who were enslaved. She reiterates the importance of shifting the language. Morrow also does a wonderful job moving through each sister’s life, and through time. Her technique is seamless. No transition is abrupt or unexpected. It feels like a true journey.

At the heart of So Many Beginnings are the March sisters. Meg, the eldest, longs for a simple life. She wishes to be married and raise a family of her own. Jo excels at writing. Her words demand attention as she gives a voice to the voiceless. Beth is a gifted seamstress searching for her greater purpose. Amy, the youngest March, dances, a perfect fit for her energetic demeanor. Each of the sisters’ personalities shine. Morrow takes the time to paint a picture of each girl. They work as one unit but aren’t without their independence. Readers see how the sum of their parts forms a beautiful whole. The sisters deeply value their bond. Like any siblings, they face some level of conflict. Regardless, their sisterhood remains solid. Morrow provides it the attention and care it so rightly deserves.

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Most notably, though, is how Morrow approaches the lasting impact of enslavement. Throughout, the family remembers their experience. However, she focuses more on emotional impact. Their experience doesn’t define them. But it prompts them to strive for a life they deserve. They carry on but never forget. More important still is that Morrow designs a safe reading experience. Readers don’t have to feel the brunt of the Marches’ trauma to recognize it exists. It doesn’t overwhelm the story in any capacity.

So Many Beginnings is an instant classic. It wraps readers into a warm, comforting hug. Readers will want to live in it forever. Fans of Little Women will find a new classic to adore with Morrow’s remix. It’s abundantly clear that she understands every facet of the story she recounts. The book also holds similar elements to the original while easily standing on its own. Characters such as Mammy and Lorie only add to the story. Morrow crafts a tender story, and sincerity inhabits every page. Despite the pain of their old life, the Marches’ story provides hope and joy. So Many Beginnings is nothing short of a celebration.

So Many Beginnings releases on September 7. Pre-order your copy here.

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Julia
Julia is a writer/editor/content assistant for Nerds. She joined the team in 2019 but has always enjoyed talking about her favorite fandoms. When she isn't writing or working, you can find her reading, watching her favorite shows and movies, and building her repertoire of Dad jokes.

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