My Little Women obsession has leaked into just about every facet of my life. Not only did I read and reread the book too many times to count, I also read the sequels, watched the 1994 movie, and obsessively memorized the entire musical, subsequently using the songs during every audition I went on for a year. (Which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND, by the way; The soundtrack will make you cry many tears.) I had no specific reasons for why I was so drawn to it as a kid aside from the fact that I had two sisters of my own, but unconsciously, I realize now, it was soothing all the uncertainties I had about my own future, and basically introducing me to some of the best feminist characters childhood literature had to offer.
Now I make a point of rereading the book and watching the movie with my family every Christmas. Although my perspective of it doesn't change drastically from year-to-year, it certainly has changed a lot over the broad span of my life. There are so many nuances in the book that you need the passage of time and experience to fully appreciate, which is one among the many reasons why you should definitely read Little Women again as an adult:
You will finally know which sister you are
Obviously when you were reading the book for first time, you decided you are an Amy, a Beth, a Jo, or a Meg, but let's be honest: Your frontal lobes were barely formed back when you made this important, life-altering decision. Because I was the oldest, I reasoned I was the Meg of my family. A full decade would go by before I realized that I am undeniably a Jo, and always will be. (Side note: I know most people think they are the Jo. This is awesome and in no way diminishes the specialness of being a Jo.)
It will make you grateful for what you have
There is at least one moment in the book where each character gives up something that is important to them for the sake of someone else, even when they have very little to spare. When you're a kid, you gloss over that kind of sacrifice because you don't necessarily understand it yet, particularly the sacrifices that are more emotional than physical. We all felt Jo's pain as kids when she cut her hair off for Marmee, but it's not until you're an adult that you start to fully appreciate the impact of moments like Mr. Laurence giving Beth the piano of the granddaughter he lost.
It will justify all your past awkwardness
You tend to glamorize the idea of people living in the past as these elegant, flawless beings, but the March sisters were every bit as awkward and clueless as we were and still are, which is a lot easier to recognize once you have some distance from your days of actually being that young.
Every one of the sisters will inspire you to keep going after your goals
I know we're all hung up on how awesome Jo is (and who can blame us?), but all of the sisters can be admired for this solitary and beautiful thing: They never let anybody tell them the "right" way to be happy. Also, they respect and support the hell out of each other's choices. Even when Jo was ragging on her about it endlessly and he was nearly penniless, Meg knew that she wanted to marry Mr. Brooke and start a family; Jo pursued writing and moved away from home even when all the odds seemed stacked against her; Amy went to freaking Europe to pursue her painting and basically told Laurie to screw off several times before considering his advances. Even Beth had a strength in her, that she pursued subjects that made her happy and didn't yield in her honest opinions to Jo, whose personality might have just as easily bulldozed her. These four sisters all had the passion and drive to make their own happiness.
You will recognize just how remarkable of an early feminist work it is
This was the 1860s. Very few women were writing, let alone writing strong, independent female characters. But the March girls never let other people make their important decisions for them, and while they were realistically prone to mistakes just as we all are, in their core they were strong-willed, good-intentioned models for feminism long before society caught up to it.
You will appreciate all the different types of love it represents
No love story in this novel is even remotely the same, and neither are the dynamics of any of the relationships. The book shows you the unbreakable bond of sisterly love, of mother-daughter love, even love for strangers, and every romantic relationship a sister pursues is inherently different but beautiful in its own way. It reminds you that there's no one perfect way to love someone, and there are so many different ways to express the love you have for people in your life who matter most.
You'll actually have a ton of people to talk about it with now
When you were a kid it felt kind of awkward to randomly go up to another kid and be like, "Hey, did you read this Louisa May Alcott book?... No? Well, okay, I'll be in the sandbox, bye." But as adults, odds are that by now, that a lot of your friends have read it and are ready to discuss. And if they haven't, odds are you are in a much more coherent position to tell them why they should, IMMEDIATELY.
You'll appreciate the enduring love of sisters so much more
Having sisters is a lot of what attracted the early readers of this book in the first place, and I put myself in that camp. And while I thought it was all sorts of cool for reading a book about sister things that I could hardcore relate to as a kid, only as an adult—after growing up, moving away, and spending time away from my sisters—could I appreciate the unspoken sisterly bonds that endure throughout the novel, even when they are apart. Nothing is more true to life than the immediate way it feels like no time has passed when you see a sister after a long time.
Images: Columbia Pictures; Giphy (5)