Monday, September 23, 2013

Book Review - The Wilder Life, Wendy McClure

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie


Wendy McClure

Category: Nonfiction: Memoir: Projects & Adventures

Synopsis: McClure revisits Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on a Prairie books and sets out to visit the historic sites in the books.

Date finished: 27 August 2013

Rating: ***½

I have a confession to make: I never read the Little House on the Prairie books. I remember starting Little House on the Prairie, but I likely didn’t finish it. And here’s the bigger confession: I watched the TV show, and I just couldn’t identify with the Laura in the book after knowing the Melissa Gilbert's Laura so well. McClure would be so disappointed in me, and I’d probably be labeled as “one of those” Little House fans.

I didn’t know there were two camps of LHOP followers, but the book fans despise the liberties taken in the TV show, and the TV fans probably find the books a little boring. I don’t remember when I learned that the TV show wasn’t faithful to the books, but by that point I was already fully invested in the show.

This book didn’t exactly sort out the fact of the books from the fiction of the show, but I did pick up some things along the way. For instance, I’m still unsure if Mary married a guy named Adam, but I know she didn’t have a baby (Laura’s daughter Rose is the only grandchild of Pa and Ma Ingalls). Apparently, there was no Albert, James, or Cassandra in real life. And the show changed the pronunciation of Almanzo’s name to “Al-MON-zo.” And of course, they didn’t really blow up Walnut Grove like they did at the end of the series. That was Michael Landon shooting NBC the bird for cancelling the show.

The problem is, I’m not sure what this book was meant to be. I enjoyed it for a romp into my childhood, but not knowing the books, it wasn’t a very effective romp. The narrative was meandering and hard to follow. I couldn’t keep the books, homesteads, and states straight. And frankly, it just wasn’t that interesting. Maybe you have to be a more die-hard Laura fan (or at least a fan of the books). I don’t know. I just felt that this book should have been cut by a third, tightened up, and properly outlined. (A synopsis of the books would have been helpful, too.)

I didn’t come away from it wanting to read the LHOP books or necessarily visit the homestead sites—though one is just miles from where I live. Maybe I’m not very interested because I have a strong sense of what homesteading entailed. I have my family’s stories. My uncle’s family is the fourth generation to farm the same plot of land. My great-grandmother on my father’s side started the first school in the area on her farm. Other great-grandparents built the Presbyterian church in town. And of course, I grew up in a tiny town that never changed, living on a farm where we still canned, hunted, and prayed against drought. Maybe these experiences were close enough to the Laura experience to satisfy me.

I do remember, however, wanting a prairie bonnet awfully bad.

Would you recommend this to a friend?
A lover of the Little House books, yes. Others, probably not.

You might also enjoy:
Prairie Tale: A Memoir by Melissa Gilbert

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