Absent parents aren’t just a thing of 20th-century after-school specials—just look at the works of Homer, Shakespeare, and the champion of every orphan ever, Dickens. Many of their “extras” float in literature limbo until, perhaps decades or centuries later, another writer decides to fill in the gaps. Margaret Atwood did it late in 2005 with the feminist Penelopiad, retelling The Odyssey from the beleaguered wife’s perspective. Sydney-born Geraldine Brooks does the opposite in the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel March, offering the point of view of Mr. March—the father who’s away, serving as a chaplain in the Union Army—in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Clever ideas aside, the descriptions are poetic and gritty, with clouds “embossing” the sky, turkey vultures looming and drowning, wounded soldiers letting out “ribbons of scarlet” in the Potomac. Brooks discusses and signs copies of her work at 6 p.m. at George Mason University’s Center for the Arts, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax. Free. (703) 993-3986. (Kim Rinehimer)