Synopses & Reviews
Richly detailed, vivid, and unforgettable, this is an extraordinary novel about three women challenging the American West—and unpredictable fate—for a future only the most daring can secure…
For Clara Bixby, brokering mail-order brides is a golden business opportunity—and a desperately needed chance to start again. If she can help New York women find husbands in a far-off Nebraska town, she can build an independent new life away from her own loss and grief.
Clara’s ambitions are shared by two other women, who are also willing to take any risk. Quiet immigrant Elsa hopes to escape her life of servitude and at last shape her own destiny. And Rowena, the willful, impoverished heiress, jumps at the chance to marry a humble stranger and repay a heartbreaking debt. All three struggle to find their true place in the world, leaving behind who they were in order to lay claim to the person they want to be. Along the way, each must face unexpected obstacles and dangerous choices, but they also help to forge a nation unlike any that came before.
"McNees gets the period details just right: the crinolines and carriages; the spare, aesthetic plainness of 19th-century New England. And although the love affair with Joseph is invented, she remains faithful to the broad outlines of Alcott's biography. In fact, The Lost Summer
is the kind of romantic tale to which Alcott herself was partial, one in which love is important but not a solution to life's difficulties. Devotees of Little Women
will flock to this story with pleasure." -The Washington Post
"I have read Little Women at least a dozen times, but Kelly O'Connor McNees has given me a gift I will not soon forget. Louisa May Alcott is no longer simply an icon to me but a real woman in all her complexity, one who lived life in spite of exploitation and the expectations of her day, never giving up on her dream. Her story is as relevant today as when Alcott bravely made her way. I can't wait to give copies of this novel to all of my friends."
-Cassandra King, author of The Sunday Wife and The Same Sweet Girls
"Mixing fact drawn from Little Women author Louisa May Alcott's letters and journals with a longing to understand how Alcott-who is thought never to have been in love-could have written so movingly about it, Kelly O'Connor McNees delivers a wonderfully imagined, lively novel of first love herself. Louisa emerges as a spunky, honest heroine torn between her own personal love affair and the need to create more enduring stories that might console readers and lovers for generations to come."
-Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters
"A superb, thoughtful, and deliciously paced book that will hook lovers of history and Alcott alike. I enjoyed it tremendously."
-Terry Gamble, author of The Water Dancers and Good Family
"Richly imagined and gracefully told, McNees' captivating story will delight anyone who loved Alcott's feisty heroine Jo March."
-Judith Ryan Hendricks, best-selling author of Bread Alone
"The three central, compelling women of In Need of a Good Wife
are each, in turn, terribly lost and deeply brave. I adored them and rooted for them…I found it deliciously satisfying that the redemption I wished for each of them arrived in completely unexpected ways, taking both me and the characters by surprise."--Katrina Kittle, author of The Blessings of the Animals
"With graceful prose and historical settings that shine with vitality, In Need of a Good Wife is unforgettable."--Kristina Riggle, author of Real Life and Liars
“Painting vivid images of the poverty of post-Civil War Manhattan City and the harrows of Destination, Nebraska, McNees weaves a hopeful, compelling story of love and resilience so engaging it is impossible to put down."--Robin Oliveira, author of My Name is Mary Sutter
“In Need of a Good Wife is a beautifully wrought story, every page bursting with poetry and adventure. McNees sweeps us west with such hope and excitement that we ache and rejoice, celebrate and cry.”--Susan Gregg Gilmore, author of Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen
is a triumph of a novel, creating an utterly human and believable Emily Dickinson through the eyes of an enchanting and complex fictional Irish woman. Their story is smart and witty and harrowing and brilliantly revelatory of the interplay of life and inspiration in a nascent great artist. And all this is done in prose that has the same condensed, particularizing power of Dickinsons poetry. Nuala OConnor has long been one of my favorite contemporary Irish writers. She will certainly find an ardently admiring American audience with this extraordinary novel."
-- Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
is a triumph of a novel, creating an utterly human and believable Emily Dickinson through the eyes of an enchanting and complex fictional Irish woman. Their story is smart and witty and harrowing and brilliantly revelatory of the interplay of life and inspiration in a nascent great artist. And all this is done in prose that has the same condensed, particularizing power of Dickinsons poetry. Nuala OConnor has long been one of my favorite contemporary Irish writers. She will certainly find an ardently admiring American audience with this extraordinary novel.”—Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler
“I finished this morning and had to write to you straight away! My goodness—what a wonderful, wonderful book. I feel so privileged to have read it; I honestly cannot praise this book enough. Nuala O'Conner's beautiful writing sings from every single page as Emily and Ada's fascinating story unfolds. An absolute joy to read—I will be telling everyone about this book.”—Hazel Gaynor, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home
"An original portrayal of Emily Dickinson seen here not just as a lover of words, but as a heroine and friend to a plucky Irish maid who casts a new and sympathetic light on the Belle of Amherst."—Sheila Kohler, author of Becoming Jane Eyre
Praise for Miss Emily
“A superb novel, I was captivated from the first page. With gorgeous, compelling period detail and graceful prose, Nuala OConnor reimagines a friendship between one of our greatest poets and her Irish maid. With uncanny insight into the expected portrayal of a servant-mistress relationship, and in keeping with the power and beauty of Dickinsons poetry, OConnor celebrates her women with great delicacy and exuberance.”
—KATHLEEN GRISSOM, bestselling author of The Kitchen House
“I read this wonderful novel in a gulp. Nuala OConnor is a gifted storyteller with a poets eye for detail. We are offered a tantalizing glimpse into the private life of one of Americas greatest poets, but for me, the real triumph is the character of Ada, Emilys young Irish maid. Its Ada who is the heart of this novel. Shes as beautifully realized as the gingerbread she so meticulously bakes with Emily. I cant wait to read what OConnor writes next.”
—NATASHA SOLOMONS, New York Times bestselling author of The House at Tyneford
"Beautifully written and utterly compelling, this vivid portrait of Emily Dickinson examines her humanity, complexity and profound relationship with words. Told in her own eloquent voice and that of her trusted maid, Miss Emily deftly braids together the stories of two intriguing women in this highly accomplished novel."
—CATHY MARIE BUCHANAN, New York Times bestselling author of The Painted Girls
“Nuala O'Connor's Miss Emily is evocative, thought-provoking, and beautifully rendered; a poignant portrait of two very different women, drawn together in unlikely friendship by a common strength of spirit and mind. Readers will delight in this richly imagined glimpse into the worlds--both inner and outer--of the immortal Emily Dickinson. I wanted to race through the novel, and yet, the language was so engrossing that I forced myself to slow down, just enough to savor each sentence.”
—ALLISON PATAKI, New York Times bestselling author of The Traitors Wife and The Accidental Empress
“A jewel of a novel, Miss Emily by Nuala O'Connor is a fascinating, heartfelt, and captivating glimpse into the mind and heart of Emily Dickinson, one of Americas most beloved poets, interwoven with the story of her spirited, witty, and devoted Irish maid, Ada. With its luminous prose and sympathetic, realistically drawn characters, you will feel yourself irresistibly drawn into Emilys and Adas private worlds with every turn of the page.”
—SYRIE JAMES, bestselling author of Jane Austens First Love and The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen
“This beautifully-crafted biographical novel vividly evokes Emily Dickinson and her world: her obsessive solitude, her sensual relationship with her sister-in-law, her conflicted relationship with her brother, and, most central, her companionable friendship with Ada, a spunky and superstitious Irish maid. Alternating between the stories of Emily and Ada, the novel brims with the charming details of their domestic life, the unfolding of a sweet romance, yet also, ultimately, brings to light the tragic effects of a violent reality that most often goes unmentioned, even today. This is an intensely engaging, emotional and important story, exquisitely rendered. Brilliant!”
—SANDRA GULLAND, author of the internationally bestselling Josephine B. Trilogy
“Miss Emily is a triumph of a novel, creating an utterly human and believable Emily Dickinson through the eyes of an enchanting and complex fictional Irish woman. Their story is smart and witty and harrowing and brilliantly revelatory of the interplay of life and inspiration in a nascent great artist. And all this is done in prose that has the same condensed, particularizing power of Dickinsons poetry. Nuala OConnor has long been one of my favorite contemporary Irish writers. She will certainly find an ardently admiring American audience with this extraordinary novel.”
—Pulitzer Prize-winning author ROBERT OLEN BUTLER
“Like a Dickinson poem, Miss Emily seems at first a simple story of friendship, but gradually reveals itself as a profound meditation on the human condition. OConnor accomplishes this unfolding, just as Dickinson did, with her exquisite use of language. I lost myself in the beautiful detail of 1860s Amherst, a cast of characters that leapt off the page with life, and the constant reminder that words, properly wielded, can transcend time, transmit love, and, above all, inspire hope.”
—CHARLIE LOVETT, New York Times bestselling author of The Bookmans Tale
“The structure of the book is reminiscent of one of Emily Dickinsons poems, a lyrical dialogue between two distinct voices. Ada and Emily are divided by class, ethnicity, learning, circumstance; but a deep empathy and shared humanity unite them as women. This is a bittersweet story of repressed passion, thwarted opportunity, and the selflessness that is the essence of love.” —STEPHANIE BARRON, bestselling author of the Being A Jane Austen Mystery series
“An absorbing and provocative take on the inner life of a brilliant poet and her increasingly shrinking universe. The Dickinson household of Amherst, Massachusetts is complex and very odd indeed and the tension builds towards shocking consequences for all involved. Nuala O'Connor's prose skillfully and lyrically creates Emily Dickinson's voice and that of her young Irish housekeeper who chronicles the poet's harrowing struggle to find the freedom to write while living a cloistered life at home. A novel you won't want to put down.”
—JENNIFER KAUFMAN and KAREN MACK, authors of Freuds Mistress
"Miss Emily is an intricate, intimate novel that, in its careful attention to language, pays homage to our most American poet's extraordinary work. There are references to that work, rewards to true Dickinson aficionados, secreted in O'Connor's prose, but this novel achieves a broader aim too: it tells a story of friendship that keeps us turning the pages."
—KELLY O'CONNOR MCNEES, author of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott and The Island of Doves
“Secrets will always out. In the same way as Emily Dickensons poems were once the best kept secret in Massachusetts, Nuala OConnors luminous prose has long been one of Irelands most treasured literary secrets. Now through her superb evocation of 19th century Amherst, an international audience is likely to be held rapt by the sparse lyricism and exactitude of OConnors writing. Through a fusion of historical ventriloquism and imaginative dexterity, OConnor vividly conjures up - in the real-life Emily Dickinson and the fictional Ada Concannon - two equally unforgettable characters who pulsate with life in this study of the slowly blossoming friendship between a delicate literary recluse and a young Irish emigrant eager to embrace the new world around her.”
—DERMOT BOLGER, playwright and author of The Journey Home and The Venice Suite, among others
“I finished this morning and had to write to you straight away! My goodness—what a wonderful, wonderful book. I feel so privileged to have read it; I honestly cannot praise this book enough. Nuala O'Conner's beautiful writing sings from every single page as Emily and Ada's fascinating story unfolds. An absolute joy to read—I will be telling everyone about this book.”
—HAZEL GAYNOR, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Came Home
"An original portrayal of Emily Dickinson seen here not just as a lover of words, but as a heroine and friend to a plucky Irish maid who casts a new and sympathetic light on the Belle of Amherst."
—SHEILA KOHLER, author of Becoming Jane Eyre
“Nuala O'Connor casts a keen, compassionate eye below the veneer of domesticity to illuminate the passion, pain, and life force behind the poetry of Emily Dickinson. Quietly elegant and moving, poignantly humane, Miss Emily is a rare gift.”
—ANIA SZADO, author of Studio Saint-Ex
In the bestselling tradition of Loving Frank and March comes a novel for anyone who loves Little Women.
Millions of readers have fallen in love with Little Women. But how could Louisa May Alcott-who never had a romance-write so convincingly of love and heart-break without experiencing it herself?
Deftly mixing fact and fiction, Kelly O'Connor McNees imagines a love affair that would threaten Louisa's writing career-and inspire the story of Jo and Laurie in Little Women. Stuck in small-town New Hampshire in 1855, Louisa finds herself torn between a love that takes her by surprise and her dream of independence as a writer in Boston. The choice she must make comes with a steep price that she will pay for the rest of her life.
Deftly mixing fact and fiction, McNees imagines a love affair that would threaten Louisa May Alcott's writing career--and inspire the story of Jo and Laurie in "Little Women."
A richly imagined, remarkably written story of the woman who created Little Women- and how love changed her in ways she never expected.
Deftly mixing fact and fiction, Kelly O'Connor McNees returns to the summer of 1855, when vivacious Louisa May Alcott is twenty-two and bursting to free herself from family and societal constraints and do what she loves most. Stuck in small-town New Hampshire, she meets Joseph Singer, and as she opens her heart, Louisa finds herself torn between a love that takes her by surprise and her dream of independence as a writer in Boston. The choice she must make comes with a steep price that she will pay for the rest of her life.
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In the bestselling tradition of Loving Frank and March comes a novel for anyone who loves Little Women.
The American debut of an award-winning Irish writer that brings to life Emily Dickinson and will enthrall fans of Longbourn and Mrs. Poe
Nuala OConnors enchanting American debut novel, Miss Emily, reimagines the private life of Emily Dickinson, one of Americas most beloved poets, through her own voice and through the eyes of her familys Irish maid.
Eighteen-year-old Ada Concannon has just been hired by the respected but eccentric Dickinson family of Amherst, Massachusetts. Despite their difference in age and the upstairs-downstairs divide, Ada strikes up a deep friendship with Miss Emily, the gifted elder daughter living a spinsters life at home. But Emilys passion for words begins to dominate her life. She will wear only white and avoids the world outside the Dickinson homestead. When Adas safety and reputation are threatened, however, Emily must face down her own demons in order to help her friend, with shocking consequences.
About the Author
NUALA O'CONNOR has worked as a bookseller, a librarian, and in a writers' center. She lives in East Galway, Ireland, with her husband and three children.