Friday, May 25, 2012

THE WILDER LIFE: Laura Ingalls Revisited


For those of you who've followed here for a while, you might have caught that I'm a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan. My book, MAY B., was partially inspired by my desire to create my own strong pioneer girl who would feel, in the spirit of Laura Ingalls, both familiar and brave. 
If you, too, are a Laura fan, you have to get a hold of Wendy McClure's THE WILDER LIFE: MY ADVENTURES IN THE LOST WORLD OF LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE. As an adult, Wendy rekindles her Laura love and determines she'll learn as much as she can about the Ingalls and their world. Wendy embarks on a butter-churning, midwestern-prairie trekking adventure, where she visits all of Laura's homesites (excluding the Wilders brief stay in Florida), experiments with homesteading techniques (sourdough starter, anyone?), and digs deep into what is real, what is fiction, and what is memory. Those of us who grew up loving Laura Ingalls have memories of our own. 
For me, I remember Laura being the first author I "knew." Sure, I'd been exposed to plenty of books before the Little House series, but it was while listening to my father read that I came to understand Laura the girl and Laura the writer were the same person. I was convinced that Laura had actually typed each page in my book, stuck everything together, and sent it to the bookstore.
Wendy's book covers a lot -- the television series fans vs. the book fans (some of us are both, but lean more one way or the other), the way Laura's books are more fictitious than many realize (For example, LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS actually covers the time before and after LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE; the Ingalls, like many pioneers, had to backtrack before being able to move west again), and the expectation -- and disappointment -- a fan might experience while visiting, as Wendy calls it, Laura World. 

How much of the books comes from true events? How much of our memories of the Ingalls were partially formed by our own childhood impressions? Where is a fan left in the midst of it all? And why did TV Pa solve so many problems by throwing punches?
For this Laura fan, this book was incredibly satisfying. Wendy, like it or not, you've made a new friend.
Has anyone else read THE WILDER LIFE? What were your impressions? 

16 comments:

  1. It was interesting. I read it at the same time I read the Melissa Gilbert memoir! It's hard to get middle school students to read Wilder any more, but I still love her work.

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    1. I bet they were interesting to read side by side!

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  2. I'm a huge Wilder fan and have nearly every book from the collection. I'll definitely have to check this one out!

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    1. Yes, do. There's a lot of love (and humor!) there.

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  3. I love the Little House series!! They were the first novels I read on my own when I was in first grade. My mom is a huge Laura Ingalls Wilder fan, too, and I know we'd both love to read this. Thanks for the information!

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  4. Laura, I'd love if you'd stop back after reading and share what you think!

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  5. I really enjoyed The Wilder Life. There's a little girl somewhere inside me that still wants to wear prairie dresses and make homemade bread and loves watching the TV show whenever it's on. For some reason it doesn't bother me how inaccurate it is - it's still nice to get a dose of the Ingalls family. My boys are just now getting to the age where we can do read alouds with Laura, so I can revisit them, too!

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    1. The inaccuracies didn't bother me either. I guess a few years of processing the idea that the books are historical fiction and not biography has been helpful in this regard (remember, I take this Laura business seriously).

      I actually think it's quite sweet Laura would soften some edges (I'm thinking about Pa skipping town without paying rent). In ways, it becomes a tribute to the father she loved.

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  6. As a fellow Little House fan, you've certainly convinced me that I WANT to read The Wilder Life. Great post, Caroline. :)

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    1. Yes, please read! You'll walk away feeling like Wendy McClure is someone you know personally. :)

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  7. The think I remember best from those books is playing with the pigtail like a balloon. It completely stuck with me.

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  8. That was the pig bladder! They ate the tail as a treat. :) Wonder if Wendy tried this??

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  9. Thanks for the heads up! I am definitely going to look for this. I absolutely love the books (and I liked the TV series when I was a kid).

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    1. Please stop by and tell me what you think!

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  10. I can't WAIT to read this book. I read about it way back when Wendy was still writing it, so I'm glad to know it's been released. I loved both the books and the TV series. They were different, but I loved them both equally.

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  11. It is so fun, Julie. I promise. Please stop back and share your thoughts!

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Thanks for adding to the mayhem!