Marilla of Green Gables

Written by Sarah McCoy
Review by Misty Urban

The story opens with an aging Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert deciding to adopt an orphan boy to help around the farm—and fans of Anne Shirley all know what happens next. McCoy makes these beloved characters distinctly her own in this charming return to the world of Avonlea, creating a deep and touching history for the practical, no-nonsense spinster of L.M. Montgomery’s famed series. Beginning as a sensible girl of 13 who is slowly won over by her independent, unmarried Aunt Izzy, Marilla matures quickly when new responsibilities are thrust on her with the death of her mother. While Marilla learns to follow her conscience as she encounters the world outside her treasured Prince Edward Island, McCoy also creates a compelling history for her companions, among them Rachel White (later Lynde); John Blythe, the farmer’s son, full of impudent charm and wisdom; and sweet, steady Matthew Cuthbert, Marilla’s loyal and devoted brother. By the concluding chapters, in 1860, Marilla is set in her ways, but those ways have made her a woman of integrity and kindness who will risk her own safety for love and justice.

McCoy imagines her Marilla as quietly aware of the deeper political currents surrounding her, but bound to her time and place by heartbreak, courage, duty, and choice. The details of rural life are vividly portrayed, and descriptions of settings are luscious enough to melt in the mouth. Moreover, McCoy’s Marilla is more in tune with modern sentiments about race, class, and social equality than the Anne books now are. This loving homage and poignant reinvention should be welcomed into the canon by long-time fans and powerful enough to draw new readers into the timeless and cherished stories of Anne and Avonlea.