Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Wilder Rose

Source: eBay
This is the set I own.

I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Laura Ingalls Wilder...doesn't ring a bell? What about Little House on the Prairie...books or TV show? I hope something sounds familiar here! Laura Ingalls Wilder, long revered as the pioneer girl who gave America a glimpse into what it meant to survive on the wild frontier through her series of children's books, had a daughter, Rose Wilder (married name Lane). I've read the Little House books so many times growing up, I couldn't even begin to count. In fourth grade we put on a wax museum and I chose Laura Ingalls Wilder, fervently interrupting the teacher's explanation of the assignment to claim the role before anyone else could. Laura was MY friend and so imagine my surprise when I found the books in my high school library years later and realized all the world knew of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her adventurous life! And recently, I've been hearing more about the life of her daughter, Rose.

A Wilder Rose: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and Their Little Houses, by Susan Wittig Albert, is a researched fictionalization of the lives of the mother and daughter throughout the writing of the Little House books. The story takes place through the 1920s, The Great Depression, and the period of recovery into WWII. Much of the story tells of Lane's travels, lifestyle, writing career, and the point that it's somewhat biographical. 

The real shocker behind the premise of this book - and one reason I very briefly hesitated to read it - is the reality behind the writing of the Little House books. Remember, I considered Laura my childhood friend (as only a book lover could understand), so it was a shock to find she was lying to me all this time. The books were written by her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. Knowing this going in, I was prepared to be angry with Laura (again, only a book lover would understand). However, what I found calmed me a little. The stories are truly Laura's, but Rose held the ability to put details and facts into a story format. Rose definitely did most of the work, but I was happy to see that Laura put herself into them too.

Focusing all my attention on who wrote the books, I didn't think of any other possible disappoints and ran smack into one. Laura Ingalls Wilder was only human. So in love with her my whole life, I suppose she's grown somewhat of a pedestal in my book/character life. Middle-aged/elderly Laura cared very much about keeping up appearances, poking her nose extensively in her adult daughter's life, and keeping her pride intact. Not the kind of person I'd typically admire. However, author Susan Wittig Albert did a good job of keeping things in context. She kept reminding the reader of the time period, the expectations ingrained in Laura from a very young age, and the seclusion and hardship of prairie life. Rose was the absolute opposite of her mother, and as an only child, such differences were likely hard for Laura to deal with.

I really enjoyed this book, even as it took Laura Ingalls Wilder from her pedestal and placed her on a more human level. How can I say I'm a fan of someone or something and be totally blind to the truth behind it all? If you grew up with Laura Ingalls Wilder and like to know everything there is to know about what you love, this is a book for you.

Are there any characters - real or fictional - you've put on a pedestal?


  1. I enjoyed this book. (A lot more than I thought I would, to be honest!) I was prepared to have my whole literary world rocked as well...but nope. It made perfect sense as I was reading it :D

    1. Ms. Albert said it rocked her to research and write it. It makes sense to me now that I'm older and think about what I know about the time period and place. My fangirl-ness for Laura was blocking that out for my whole life!

    2. Yep, I felt the same way as you gals, did! :)

    3. So glad I have fellow Laura Ingalls Wilder pals among my favorite bloggers!

    4. Add me to the list of those who anticipated her world rocking and then shattered! When Susan approached me about reviewing her book and explained it, my initial reaction was, "How could Laura Ingalls Wilder do such a thing????" I think Susan did a fine job of researching and smoothing our ruffled feathers, along with her own.

      Jennine, I have to share that in fourth grade my classroom was the school library. My chair and table was directly in front of the shelf holding the entire collection of Little House Books. I thought I owned them and I'll have you know Laura was my friend!! :)

    5. I agree...she did a great job of smoothing the ruffled feathers even as she ruffled them! And isn't that the sign of a good author? That you think you are her best friend and no one else could be as close. I guess the credit for that part goes to Rose Wilder Lane though.