The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
My daughter is a true Little House fan. She grew up reading the books, had her own Little House club, and spent most of her 8th year in a prairie dress of some kind. So, when we saw this book she wanted to read it immediately. Unfortunately for her she just started school for the fall and adding another book to her reading list wasn't going to happen. So, I read it.
I am also a Wilder fan - who do you think got our daughter hooked on the Prairie books in the first place. My brother, for some reason I can't fathom, loved the show and we would watch it together. He also taught me to read using my grandmothers large print bible - for a gay man he was somewhat of an enigma, but more about that another day. After I realized that the show was based on the books, thanks to the Scholastic flyer that was sent home with me from school, I checked them out from the library. Laura was wonderful - everything a girl wanted to be and doing it all on the prairie. Even I knew that was cool. So, I read and loved them for what they were. Books to peek into another era and enough wholesomeness and sweet girl power spirit to be excited.
Granted, as I got older and my daughter got more into the books we researched Rose Wilder and found that she was a bit more controversial. She lived in our hometown of San Francisco and we were fascinated by her life and understood that she was a pivotal role in getting her mothers books published. We also began to understand that Laura couldn't have remembered all of that and they were fiction - not the true story or the grittiness of their poverty - just a sweet way to remember what was long forgotten.
Now, back to The Wilder Life, because of all that I wanted to like this book too. She goes on this exciting journey to find the true Laura Ingalls Wilder in her homes (we have visited two of the famous sites), she churns butter, and somewhere along the way she gets really disillusioned. What she fails to understand is that it was a story... not fact, but fiction.
She is visiting the sites like I imagine people who visit religious relics do, searching for some magical transformation that isn't going to happen. She is childless, by choice, and is surrounding herself with all these girls who are in love with all things Laura and she wonders why she gets a bit cranky during the journey. They are age appropriate in their love of Laura - she is not. She is, instead, a bit of a freak looking for something outside of herself that she will never find - not in the made up world of Laura fan-dom.
So, what could have been a delightful story about looking into the past through Laura's rose colored glasses instead becomes a journey into a woman who recently lost her mom and isn't coping very well with any of it. Not fun, not the book it could have been, and not the world I wanted to visit.
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