The story of Louisa M. Alcott's family as seen through the eyes of 'Marmee,"" mother of Little Women: simulated autobiography that is true to events, to the thoughts of its ""author,"" to her manner of expression -- without mimicry. In short, a considerable tour de force, much more successful then We Dickinsons. The Alcotts were a singular family and Abba May Alcott, fending off destitution and criticisms of her philosopher-hewer husband, was its linchpin; she was not simply ""Marmee"" (a tag happily held in check here), she best-friended Lydia Maria Child, knew what Emerson and Thorean were about; sympathized with Abolitionists and Transcendentalists. Utopians, however, she mistrusted for their deemphasis on the family, and ""her"" account of the Fruitlands consociation is both ludicrous and tragic. All these experiences formed Lousia May Alcott and her books (Fruitlands became ""Transcendental Wild Oats""); Louisa herself, her sisters, a legendary aunt, a European lover, brief acquaintances, peopled them. Happily again, ""Marmee"" does not anticipate the parallels or insist upon them. Better informed and more informative than Meigs' Invincible Louisa, less stodgy and reverent than Sandford Salyer's Marmee (a young adult biography), this is also a delight: Abba Alcott putting up a family post box, Bronson Alcott dispensing wisdom and apples, Louisa vowing, at fourteen, to pay all our debts -- seen with knowing affection, told without sentimentality.