Much has been written and relentlessly speculated about the life of Louisa May Alcott since the publication and runaway success of Little Women in 1868. A great deal of weight has been given to the role and influence of her lightning rod father, Bronson Alcott, as well as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and other notable Transcendentalists on her writing topics and career motivations. Little has been said about her mother, Abigail, as an equally, if not more important, role in Louisa’s life and work. LaPlante, a descendant of Alcott’s, attempts to make that case with her biographical history, Marmee and Louisa. The Marmee in the title is key, as it’s a significant reason LaPlante feels that curiosity about Abigail’s personal life and influence is limited and largely comfortably ignored. Both historians and readers feel they have a clear grasp on her role – the character Marmee has made the real woman, Abigail Alcott, all but invisible.The result of LaPlante’s undertaking is an informative and engaging biography, but so little of Abigail has been preserved through her actual words and letters, that it’s difficult to further that premise with strong conviction. Marmee and Louisa reads more like a history of Abigail’s (historically significant) family, her relationship with her husband, the family’s struggle with poverty and Bronson’s baffling approach to raising and providing for a family. LaPlante gives a detailed account of Abigail Alcott’s affluent family and upbringing, well-connected relatives, their financial fortunes, and how setbacks were endured and overcome – concentrating on the effect that all of this had on Abigail. Her relationship with Louisa seems loving but also incidental to the shared history of the family. Marmee and Louisa is a fascinating biography of a woman, and indeed a family, whose words and deeds were beyond the times in which they lived.Thoughts on the audio: I read Marmee and Louisa and then listened to it on audio. It was narrated by Karen White, and she does an excellent job managing the flow of a wealth of information. Many locations were mentioned, the relatives had similar names, and their connections and intermarriages were dense. White’s distinct narration acted as a clarifier of the information presented, and in a book filled with Bronson Alcott’s shenanigans, her reading was also fair and largely unbiased toward any of those mentioned. Both the book and its audio are worthy choices, and not to be missed by those already interested or wanting to learn more about Abigail, Louisa and the Alcott family, and women’s history in the United States surrounding the civil war. Recommended.