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

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

Summary: For anyone who has ever wanted to step into the world of a favorite book, here is a pioneer pilgrimage, a tribute to Laura Ingalls Wilder, and a hilarious account of butter-churning obsession. Wendy McClure is on a quest to find the world of beloved Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder-a fantastic realm of fiction, history, and places she's...

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Title:The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie
Author:Wendy McClure
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Edition Language:English

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

  • Jessica Knauss

    I won an ARC of this book. Hooray!

    Although I've gone on to do a lot more reading, I've always carried a little of Laura with me, in ways I never considered before I read The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure.

    The book is a memoir of McClure's rediscovery of the series as an adult after a personal tragedy. She gets a obsessed with trying to somehow recapture that long-ago life in some way, any way she can. In the process she goes on an epic journey, always learning and developing insights along the

    I won an ARC of this book. Hooray!

    Although I've gone on to do a lot more reading, I've always carried a little of Laura with me, in ways I never considered before I read The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure.

    The book is a memoir of McClure's rediscovery of the series as an adult after a personal tragedy. She gets a obsessed with trying to somehow recapture that long-ago life in some way, any way she can. In the process she goes on an epic journey, always learning and developing insights along the way. No crazy idea, whether it's churning her own butter or camping on a farm in Illinois, fails to spark some kind of connection with the ever-expanding and lost world Laura writes about so lovingly. McClure masterfully sorts out her personal reactions to the book and compares "fact" with "fiction" to allow the reader to come to his/her own conclusions.

    Topics addressed include:

    • The hybrid nature of the books. Are they fiction? Are they autobiography? How can we reconcile the Laura we know from the books with the mysterious Laura who experienced all that and so much more?

    • The people who know the books only through the TV series and how their expectations from the historical sites differ. Is the world of the TV series less valid than that of the books?

    • The prototypes for ways of being feminine presented in the books. These are especially important to consider, as they influence girls at a formative moment in their development. Do you sympathize with Mary? With Nellie Oleson? Is Laura a "tomboy"? (I completely agree with McClure when she decides that Laura is not a tomboy, just a girl whose femininity encompasses an explorer's spirit and some rugged chores. We girls can do anything, like Laura!)

    • The complicated political issues at stake in the West at the time, which is mostly played out when we discover that the Ingalls were one of many squatters on land that was clearly meant for Native Americans and only opened to homesteaders a few years after the Ingallses left.

    • The views of Native Americans, which, whether positive or negative, are incomplete in the books, mainly because they're told from a child's perspective, and that child was never to experience Native American culture firsthand, even as an adult.

    • The wide-ranging interpretations people put on the books, often to serve their own world views. The prevailing one is that the Ingalls' life was a "simple" one of self-sufficiency. As the homesteading issue shows, times were never "simpler," at least not in the last two millennia, and as McClure points out, the Ingalls relied on technology, like trains and conveniences like stores whenever they were available. Especially entertaining is the story about the serial killers who operated near the Little House on the Prairie -- were they more innocent times?

    • The hotly contested role of Rose Wilder Lane in the creation of the books, and in her life in general.

    • The way Farmer Boy fits or doesn't fit into the series.

    • The way the series peters out, so disappointing for young readers, and so much more understandable for adults. By visiting some of Laura's home sites that don't appear in the children's series, McClure comes to a better understanding of where the story really goes.

    • That incredible sense of identification readers seem to come away with so often. Is the reader actually Laura? Who is Laura, anyway?

    Possibly the best feature of the Little House series is Laura Ingalls Wilder's talent for observation accompanied by wonder. McClure learned from the best. Her writing transmits a similar finely-observed reality colored with wonder and more often than not, joy. The book jacket claims that it's "hilarious," but my laughter was more about recognition: whenever she has a Laura geek moment or discusses the way the books impacted her as a child, I think, yes, I had exactly the same reaction myself. Of course, McClure is also a writer and an editor who studied in Iowa City, so we have more than one common frame of reference. But the beautiful writing and great research, executed under the aegis of unflagging enthusiasm, will pull you along, too.

    And hooray for McClure's partner, Chris, who read the books for her sake, and had the good sense to wake up in the middle of a potentially deadly hail and thunderstorm in DeSmet, only to show concern for the crops. (Would the Ingalls ever see a wheat crop that didn't fail?)

    I just happened to have "rediscovered" the Little House books at the end of 2010, when my mother mailed them to me in an effort to clear out the house. I hadn't even thought of looking at what Laura stuff there might be on the internet, and because this book includes so much information in such a fun way, now I never have to. The Wilder Life couldn't have come at a better time for me, and I think it's also appropriate for Americans in general as we face ever-worsening economic hardships. The Wilder Life reminds us all that normal people, like the Ingalls -- like us -- can make it work under the worst conditions.

  • Gretchen

    Omigod I'm old. And a geek. And this book fit very well with these two personal revelations. The author, a child of the seventies (like me!) was obsessed with the Little House series when she was younger. A personal tragedy starts her on a journey to find more about the series, and the real Wilder family. Doing this project in 2007 means she has access to that wonderful and terrible tool of the Internet. Soon she is traveling throughout the Midwest geeking out over objects from the past (learn

    Omigod I'm old. And a geek. And this book fit very well with these two personal revelations. The author, a child of the seventies (like me!) was obsessed with the Little House series when she was younger. A personal tragedy starts her on a journey to find more about the series, and the real Wilder family. Doing this project in 2007 means she has access to that wonderful and terrible tool of the Internet. Soon she is traveling throughout the Midwest geeking out over objects from the past (learn to churn butter from the internet!) and drawing closer to her "Laura-world".

    This book isn't for everyone. It has a Gen-x tone that will put off more earnest seekers. But I loved it. I loved that she filled in the blanks of What happened Next after the LH books. I loved that she brought up the controversies: TV Show or Books? Rose Wilder - author or helper? Books - sanitized or real?

    I also loved the roadtrip aspect of the book. Contrasting what you expect to find when you visit a historical site, vs what you actually find, was a good way to think about your own aspirations. How much of our world is real, and how much is constructed from our memories?

    Finally, I loved that this novel brought the LH books back to me. This was my favorite series as a child. But neither of my kids made it past Farmer Boy. I don't know it was because of timing (both were learning to read during the Harry Potter Craze). But I do worry that the series may not be as relevant today .... and that nostalgia also comes through as the author reflects on the books.

    Highly recommended for anyone who spent childhood summers wearing a sunbonnet along with her Jessica McClintock prairie skirt, while wishing there was an actual creek to go explore.

  • Sarah

    I love this book! I can so relate to so many of the authors thoughts, especially about relating Little House stories to my "real" life. I have my Little House Colorform set to prove my love. My sis and I were Mary and Laura for Halloween one year.

    Unexpectedly, this book makes me very lonely for my mom. She read the series aloud to me as a child and I heard her reread it over the years to my siblings. I didn't commit the date of her death to my memory and I don't think about her on Mother's Day

    I love this book! I can so relate to so many of the authors thoughts, especially about relating Little House stories to my "real" life. I have my Little House Colorform set to prove my love. My sis and I were Mary and Laura for Halloween one year.

    Unexpectedly, this book makes me very lonely for my mom. She read the series aloud to me as a child and I heard her reread it over the years to my siblings. I didn't commit the date of her death to my memory and I don't think about her on Mother's Day (Hallmark holiday!). But I know I could have given her this book and she would have enjoyed the author's observations as much as I am enjoying them.

    It's definitely not for the casual fan. If you only watched the show, or only read the first book or two, then this isn't for you. It's for the fan that read them all, attempted the extra books, and is generally aware of some of the Rose/Laura authorship lore.

    Now and then, it's overly long. Perhaps a bit TOO detailed. I mean, didn't finish On the Way Home and I didn't read Pioneer Girl for a reason! But the real fan, the one who understands "Laura World" will deal with those passages and still enjoy things.

  • Wendy

    Though I love @halfpintingalls and had a couple of nice virtual interactions with the author while she was working on the book, I put off reading this after some middling reviews from friends and acquaintances. I get how this is not for everyone, and most of the really negative reviews are from people who got the book expecting it to be something else and can't get over that it isn't the book they wanted to read. (Some people think it's for the Little House fanatic; others think it's for those

    Though I love @halfpintingalls and had a couple of nice virtual interactions with the author while she was working on the book, I put off reading this after some middling reviews from friends and acquaintances. I get how this is not for everyone, and most of the really negative reviews are from people who got the book expecting it to be something else and can't get over that it isn't the book they wanted to read. (Some people think it's for the Little House fanatic; others think it's for those who don't know Little House details. Some think it mentions the TV show too often and some think it disdains the TV show.)

    This is the danger you face when your book, which should have a narrow audience, gets picked up more widely because of catchy subject matter. People read this who have probably never even heard of jezebel and wouldn't read it if they had.

    I share the author's annoyance with people who don't read--and especially don't LOVE--books in the "right" way. And some of that spilled over into my reading of this book, of course. While we were mostly on the same page--we dwell with delight on the same phrases from the books--I always find it tiresome when people stop reading Little House, even stop thinking about Little House, after childhood. McClure's discoveries never happened for most of my book-loving friends because we never stopped reading and rereading and I am impatient with anyone who didn't read the Zochert biography as a child. But, of course, I am also impatient with people who I think take it all too far [read: further than I do], and, as the author explores, with people who ascribe philosophies and religious beliefs to the Ingalls family that aren't really supported by the books. (My favorite chapter is probably the one about the religious people at the homestead, though I have always known such people and wouldn't have been as startled by them, but then, I wouldn't have been as nice to them or about them, either.)

    I haven't actually been to any Laura Ingalls Wilder homesites, always being afraid of what I know I would find there, preferring my own more obscure "homesites" for other books and authors and people. Those sort of stand in for what I wish I would find at Laura homesites.

  • Sarah

    I agree with the other reviewer who called this an "odd duck of a book." From the start, I couldn't tell where it was going and still haven't figured it out. There were the expected introductory descriptions of the author's childhood love of the Little House books, her ability as an adult to retrace the exact steps to the exact shelf in the public library where the books were, the imaginary conversations she had as a child showing her friend Laura around in modern times, all of which were

    I agree with the other reviewer who called this an "odd duck of a book." From the start, I couldn't tell where it was going and still haven't figured it out. There were the expected introductory descriptions of the author's childhood love of the Little House books, her ability as an adult to retrace the exact steps to the exact shelf in the public library where the books were, the imaginary conversations she had as a child showing her friend Laura around in modern times, all of which were endearing (including using "Laura" as an adjective, e.g. the Laura books, the Laura this and that). Then there was butter churning and Long Winter bread-making, which didn't get as much treatment as expected (maybe because I've always been blown away by that bread and what it would mean to eat only that, and maybe a piece of potato, every day for months during snowstorms that lasted from September to May) and which also kind of came from nowhere in the earlier parts of the book.

    I thought I had hit on some thematic organization toward the middle, where there was an enjoyable chapter on whether Laura was a tomboy and what it meant to be a Laura (free-spirited and independent) versus a Nellie Oleson (conventional and materialistic), and a chapter on the Homestead Act and other land issues in post-Civil War U.S. (Little Squatter on the Osage Diminished Reserve! hee hee). So I assumed that the chapters could stand alone as thematic essays if only I paid closer attention to their titles.

    I was wrong, ultimately. The rest of the book was devoted to trips to the various Laura museums and historic sites in no particular order. There are descriptions of Laura pageants, sleeping in a converted covered wagon amidst an unexpected lightning storm in the middle of a prairie, and attending a homesteading weekend bonanza with some fundamentalists whose interest in homesteading was based on getting ready for the End Times (McClure did okay vis-a-vis my recent Goodreads rantings). McClure's boyfriend also came across very endearingly (for her sake, he voluntarily read all of the books and some supplemental writings, and his reaction to the lightning-in-covered-wagon-with-metal-frame was leaping up and shouting, "What about the crops?!").

    Near the end of her Laura journey (and book), McClure's friend asked her if there was something she hoped to figure out through all this Laura-ness, and she replied that she thought so, and that that it had something to do with the recent loss of her mother. Then the lack of structure made perfect sense, as McClure seems to have written the book as the events happened chronologically, rather than making sense of it all and then using that resolution as a guidepost from the outset. The book would have read stronger that way, though there is something valuable and sincere in reading about her searching in a less filtered manner. Without more structure though, the book really reads as a bunch of anecdotes told by your friend who did all of these Laura things and who will gladly answer all of your questions without judging you -- that is to say, it's highly enjoyable. In other words, there was no way I wouldn't have read this book, and I'll probably read it again. It's also very comforting to know that there are people out there who are even more demented about their reading than I am (something a true and nonjudgmental bff understood when gifting me with this book -- thank you!!).

  • Hannah

    This was a book clearly destined to be picked up by me, because I too consider myself one of the "Laura" tribe. I loved the LHotP books growing up, and watched the TV show every week. Even today, I still do a re-read at Christmastime of all the Christmas chapters in every book (

    ?). I try to re-read my favorite:

    every 2 or 3 years to remind myself that my life isn't so hard after all (

    This was a book clearly destined to be picked up by me, because I too consider myself one of the "Laura" tribe. I loved the LHotP books growing up, and watched the TV show every week. Even today, I still do a re-read at Christmastime of all the Christmas chapters in every book (

    ?). I try to re-read my favorite:

    every 2 or 3 years to remind myself that my life isn't so hard after all (

    ). Occasionally, my daughter and I will do this weird thing where we imagine WWMD (

    ) whenever we watch something *questionable* on TV. Ma Ingalls, like Jesus, has a very positive influence on our TV watching habits. (

    ). On another quirky side note, we also like to imagine what Ma would like to have for the perfect Christmas present. I'm convinced that nothing fancy or ostentatious would please her. Therefore, I would love to give her my Pampered Chef Potato and Carrot Peeler. She would ROCK and ROLL in the sod house with one of those gadgets! And yes, Laura comes in for her share of largesse in our household as well (

    ).

    I guess what I'm building up to with this TMI is that I'm a certified, calico card carrying member of the Little House geek club. And darn-tooting proud of it. So when I saw this book at my local Borders, I sat down and read the first chapter inside the store, and I knew I was going to love it based on how many times I snorted and laughed out loud among strangers (before this, only

    could lay claim to that feat). Rushing home, I went to my local library, where I waited through a hold list of 7 other die-hard fans to get my hands on this to see if it lived up to Chapter One.

    Dear reader, I'm afraid it didn't, although there is much to enjoy in the first 100 pages. McClure's scattered observations about identifying so closely with Laura and her world do have an appeal, and some of her anecdotes about her feelings for Laura are witty and spot on. Real fans will be able to see themselves in some of her experiences, and I sure do envy her for making the pilgrimage to all the holy sites of Laura-ism. Unfortunately, McClure's brand of humor begins to fall flat after page 120, and a snide, judgemental voice begins to emerge from what was previously a light-hearted narrative. In slamming other fans that she meets along her journey for their faith, their clothing, their ideology (and even their love for the TV show over the books), McClure morphs into the very judgmental, bigoted person she is trying so sarcastically to put down. Otherwise, when she wasn't puffing herself up at the expense of others, I did enjoy reading about all the sites and the events and things a fan could see and do.

    I wouldn't recommend this book for people who have only a passing interest in the Little House world. I can't see that they'd get much out of this, since the anecdotes are very book/TV specific. In addition, this book suffered from a lack of photos to shore up the narrative. I highly recommend having at your side as a companion book:

    McClure covered, almost verbatim, all the places in this book and it was great to have a visual reference to what she was discussing.

    Of course, I had this reference book in my bookshelves already, along with over 60% the books in the selected bibliography at the back of the book. 'Cause I'm a Little House geek fan, in case you didn't know.

  • Laura

    The author claims to be a huge, obsessed Laura Ingalls Wilder (LIW) fan, I claim that I make, too. Because of her claim, I thought that I would really enjoy reading this book. How wrong I was.

    In the beginning of the book, the author comes off as rather stupid to me. Her constant shocking revelations about what happened and, more importantly, what didn't happen, were old news and made her seem like a newbie LIW researcher. When she finally got past the "I can't believe it didn't happen exactly

    The author claims to be a huge, obsessed Laura Ingalls Wilder (LIW) fan, I claim that I make, too. Because of her claim, I thought that I would really enjoy reading this book. How wrong I was.

    In the beginning of the book, the author comes off as rather stupid to me. Her constant shocking revelations about what happened and, more importantly, what didn't happen, were old news and made her seem like a newbie LIW researcher. When she finally got past the "I can't believe it didn't happen exactly how it was in the books" stage, she launched into a self-centered, whiny exploration of various LIW historical sites. At this point I do have to give her credit: she managed to get to all the Little House sites, which is something that I'm not interested in doing.* Along the way, the narrative is jumpy, self-congratulatory, and annoying. As the author strives to do all things Laura, she shows us all that she's a Nellie.

    The best part of the book was the selected bibliography, which listed a few books that I have not already read. However, I wish the author had included a full bibliography, because she mentioned some books in the text that I was interested in reading. In lieu of a full bibliography, an index would have been nice.

    If you are a true LIW fan, do yourself a favor and skip this book. Read one of the many better-researched and more comprehensive biographies of LIW. This book is an autobiography of a period in Wendy McClure's life, it is not a LIW biography. This book is better suited for someone who read the Little House books as a kid and then didn't think about them again.

    • Full disclosure: I have been to two Little House sites. I've been to DeSmet, SD, which I consider to be the most significant location from the books series. And I've been to Burr Oak, IA, which is completely absent from the book series. The only other Little House site that I want to go to is Mansfield, MO, the place where LIW eventually settled and the place that hold the most LIW's possessions.

  • Colleen

    For me, there was a problem of expectation. Everything I'd read about this book talked about Wendy McClure's HI-larious experiences doing the things Laura and her family did in the Little House books. Yes, she grinds wheat to make bread and, yes, she buys a butter churn on ebay and makes butter. At one of the home sites, she half-heartedly twists ONE haystick. That's it folks! It's actually more of a travelogue as Wendy and her saint of a boyfriend (he puts up with a lot of crazy!) and various

    For me, there was a problem of expectation. Everything I'd read about this book talked about Wendy McClure's HI-larious experiences doing the things Laura and her family did in the Little House books. Yes, she grinds wheat to make bread and, yes, she buys a butter churn on ebay and makes butter. At one of the home sites, she half-heartedly twists ONE haystick. That's it folks! It's actually more of a travelogue as Wendy and her saint of a boyfriend (he puts up with a lot of crazy!) and various other friends go with her to visit the various places that were important in Laura's life. It is very funny. It does start off great. I related to her instantly and felt I'd met a kindred soul whose love of Laura matched my own. But, around the time they visited the farm for the homesteading weekend and basically fled in terror before a group of seeminly harmless "end timers," she started to bug me. From there on, it was a slog of criticisms, disappointments, mockery and ridicule. Her seemingly fabulous friends would say, "are you sure you don't want to stay?" "Don't you want to try that?" "Do you want to see the log cabin again?" In response, she left a day early, eschewed participation, said, "I've already seen it." Of course, in her murky explanation that this Laura obsession was all a response to her mother's death, we see that this was all fulfilling some kind of book proposal that, once on the roads of remote corners of the midwest, perhaps had lost its appeal.

    Her research was impressive and I will definitely seek out the scholarly books she referred to. Having recently had the epiphany to use the internet to research Laura's life and been somewhat disconcerted by what I found, I appreciated Wendy's explanations and staunch belief in Laura and the Ingalls. Her writing is very lucid and I got a true sense of the home sites and museums...most of which I will never have the opportunity to visit.

    I mostly believe that this is a problem of the publisher marketing a book incorrectly. Taken as what it is, a "blog" of sorts, it's a decent read.

  • Traci

    I'm having a hard time knowing how many stars this one deserves. It's in part a book about the relationship she feels various people have with the Little House books as a type of social phenomenon, part description of places you can go visit if you're interested in visiting Little House related sites, and part Wendy McClure's boring too-old-for-a-quarter-life-crisis-but-too-young-for-a-midlife-crisis crisis.

    When she gets out of the way and talks about book Laura versus real Laura or the various

    I'm having a hard time knowing how many stars this one deserves. It's in part a book about the relationship she feels various people have with the Little House books as a type of social phenomenon, part description of places you can go visit if you're interested in visiting Little House related sites, and part Wendy McClure's boring too-old-for-a-quarter-life-crisis-but-too-young-for-a-midlife-crisis crisis.

    When she gets out of the way and talks about book Laura versus real Laura or the various Little House sites it's a very interesting book. When she gets in the way, though, it's painfully slow. You get the feeling throughout the book that she's trying to be cooler than the obsession she actually has. She doesn't want to be the cliche, so instead she's half-in and half-out and a real boring stick in the mud. You can tell she looks down on the people who dress up in period clothing, but she buys 6 bonnets at museum shops (but won't wear them). She won't participate in some of the hands on crafts. She continually refuses to see one thing or another on the trips, as if that in some way puts her above the 'fan boy' cliche she seems desperate to avoid. But instead what you end up with is following along a real downer on what could be a fun playful journey!

    She tries to make it all deeper--there's a lot of discussion of being with Laura, being in Laura World, searching for something and not finding it...that feels forced, silly, and annoying. The standard mid-30s-women-with-no-kids-looking-for-deeper-meaning navel gazing that I find so tiresome. In the last chapter she tries to tie all of the 'searching' going on with an explanation that her mother had died shortly before her obsession began. I think it's all a futile effort, though, to make her relationship with the books more cerebral and less cliche than the other travelers she encounters.

    I discovered last night that a few months before this book was published another book with a very similar premise was published--I'm curious if that one would have been a more enjoyable read.

    Ignoring her own narrative, the book was interesting enough to prompt me to want to reread the Little House books (which I liked as a kid but never enough to actually read all of them) and plan for the day when I can take Ellie on a similar trip. But unlike with McClure, our trip into Laura World will be fun.

    (As a side note, after thinking about it more I just am so bummed for her. Putting down the book was like walking away from lunch with a severely depressed friend. I'm glad it's over, but her sadness has now rubbed off on me and will be a dark cloud over my day. Her proudly agnostic views seem to explain so perfectly this lost/sad/looking-for-something-Laura-could-never-provide feeling that pervades the whole book. It reminds me so much of a story an ICU nurse friend told me once. She was working with a patient who had tried to commit suicide and he was boasting that he doesn't believe in God or religion. She looked down at this man who was so lost he'd tried to take his own life and said "and how's that working out for you?" Which isn't to say that her encounter with the survivalist sect wouldn't have equally freaked me out or that the people who are so ready to impose a 'perfect Christianity' on the Ingalls are historically accurate, but when someone is that proudly agnostic and that very lost, it's hard not to wonder why they haven't connected the dots.)

  • Bridget

    The thing about a book like this - a book about a journey through some topic or other where the author's presence is overt - is that the author has to be likeable. Otherwise, it's like being stuck with a tour guide whose voice is kind of annoying and half the things she says aren't interesting and maybe she's a low-talker sometimes and at the end of the tour you're just glad to be DONE.

    Unfortunately, that's how this book was for me. From almost the very beginning, it was the weirdest thing:

    The thing about a book like this - a book about a journey through some topic or other where the author's presence is overt - is that the author has to be likeable. Otherwise, it's like being stuck with a tour guide whose voice is kind of annoying and half the things she says aren't interesting and maybe she's a low-talker sometimes and at the end of the tour you're just glad to be DONE.

    Unfortunately, that's how this book was for me. From almost the very beginning, it was the weirdest thing:

    . The things she said, the way she said them, the little details of her life that she chose to bring into the story - ugh, I just did not want to spend 350 pages with this person, but there I was, reading The Wilder Life.

    And in the end, I didn't even feel bad for not liking the author as she presents herself in the book, because you know what? The author doesn't like anyone in her own book! She is snide and condescending to everyone she comes across - but don't worry, it's only behind their backs, in the pages of this book, which will unfortunately be read by a lot of people.

    You see, in McClure's published opinion, really earnest zealots of the Little House on the Prairie books (meaning anyone more interested in the series than the author herself, of course) are too weird. Those who aren't interested at all must have had crappy childhoods. Fans of the TV show: oh, that is SO lowbrow, the NERVE. People who have children, people who believe in emergency preparedness, people who dress up like pioneers for fun when visiting Laura Ingalls historic sites = WEIRDOS. Only the author, her precious long-suffering boyfriend, and a couple of college friends are in that special club of people who are not mocked in this book. (And also, inexplicably, this one lady at a gift shop named Barbara Walker. Good for her.)

    It's sad, too, because I was really excited to go on a fun, informative romp through the books that had a great influence on me in childhood. I read the Little House on the Prairie books so many times as a young girl that it's almost as if the landscape is still there in my imagination, just as it looked twenty years ago, waiting to be populated by Laura and friends the moment I pick up one of the books to read it again.

    Instead, I felt like my soft-edged, glowing, skipping-through-the-wildflowers memories of everything Laura Ingalls were trotted out by this book and shoved around roughly for a while, but in a lazy, half-hearted manner, and then left by the side of the road when the author got tired of it.

    Because seriously, the author doesn't even bother concealing how blase she got about this whole Laura Ingalls Wilder thing (about which she was writing a book, you may recall). There were multiple times in the book where someone at a Laura-related site would ask her, "would you like to see more," or "would you like to stay longer," or "would you like to drive 15 minutes out of your way to..." and the author's answer was, "meh, no thanks. I'm too tired/hungry/bored."

    And you can't even imagine how disorganized this book is. It seems to me that the way to do it would be to have a chapter for each book in the series, or sections devoted to recipes she tried, and then sites she visited, and then studies of the lifestyle, or SOMETHING. Instead, there is no clear method or beginning or end or arc to any of the chapters, so it goes something like: "I thought about trying a recipe, and then I read on the internet for a while about butter churns, and then I drove to this one site, and then I talked with this girl who wrote a book about it a long time ago, and then I decided I never wanted to have children." What the?!?

    In conclusion, the only parts of this book that I liked were when she visited the site of Farmer Boy (and even then, she couldn't resist a sneer about how that was her least favorite book in the series); and when I finally, after all these years, got a slight idea of what the heck a slough is.

    I cannot think of a reason anyone should ever read this book. Even if you're a fan of the Little House on the Prairie books. Heck, ESPECIALLY if you're a fan of the Little House on the Prairie books.

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