Book review

Shouldn't life be more than simply showing up? Is it enough to be part of a family, make another family, earn your living, and then exit stage left? Or should you engage and be engaged in a bit of purposeful shaking and shoving along the way?

These are questions that Kit Bakke urgently needs answered. Tired of self-proclaimed gurus and self-help books, she turns to her childhood role model -- Louisa May Alcott -- for direction. She sends an e-mail to Louisa, and is amazed when she receives a reply. Their correspondence becomes a dance of ideas and tales bridging the mid-1800s and the twenty-first century.

But why Louisa? "Her abolitionist zeal, her women's rights advocacy, her hospital work, her crazy commune days, her heartfelt desire to leave the world a better place, her humor and her energy all materialized in front of me," writes Bakke. "Louisa was serious when she signed her letters, 'Yours for reforms of all kinds.' She made her life, she didn't just live it."

When Kit Bakke came of age in the late 1960s, America was going through major social and political turmoil. She and many of her generation elected to pursue radical ways to protest the Vietnam War and civil rights injustices at home, and Bakke joined the notorious Weather Underground. Eventually she left the movement to become a wife, a mother, and a professional nurse, but the persistent questions about the best way to live her life, make her contribution, and find satisfaction remained.

By initiating her extraordinary correspondence with Louisa May Alcott, Kit hopes to "pick up some clues for my friends and myself about how better to live the thirty or so years that might be remaining to us. And besides, we would be giving Louisa a treat that couldn't be beat -- a peek into the future."

Kind in Congo by Pol Van Assche

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Pol Van Assche
Bola Editions
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Kind in Congo

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