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

3.46  ·  Rating Details ·  6,890 Ratings  ·  1,442 Reviews
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 ne
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published April 14th 2011 by Riverhead (first published April 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Aug 03, 2011 Hannah rated it liked it
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 (tin cup, candy stick and a penny anyone?). I try to re-read my favorite: The Long Winter every 2 or 3 years to remind myself that my life isn't so hard after all (and even if it was, my Christmas turkey will still surely ...more
Jun 01, 2011 Laura rated it it was ok
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 ho
Jun 18, 2011 Bridget rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2011
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: I di
Jul 08, 2012 Traci rated it it was ok
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
Jessica Knauss
Mar 16, 2011 Jessica Knauss rated it it was amazing
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 wa
Feb 10, 2012 Wendy rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Apr 17, 2011 Gretchen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2011, 5-stars
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 ...more
May 06, 2011 Sarah rated it liked it
Shelves: bio-memoir
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 ...more
May 23, 2011 Sarah rated it really liked it
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 (
When I was in third grade I borrowed a copy of Little House in the Big Woods at the school library. By some strange coincidence that same day my Mom had borrowed a copy of Little House on the Prairie for me at the county library. I was so surprised. I read both books quickly and became obsessed with the series and the idea of living the pioneer life. I wanted to grow my hair longer and wear long skirts and dresses just like Laura and her sisters. I would imagine riding a horse or driving a wagon ...more
Apr 03, 2011 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
When I was a little girl, my mother gave me a copy of Little House in the Big Woods. I read it and fell in love with it, with Laura and the Ingalls family and their pioneer life. Mom then showed me a treasure - she had bought all of the books in the series (through These Happy Golden Years) for me and I could read them all right then. I tore through the rest of the books. I still have them - the covers have fallen off of most of them yet they have survived every time I have culled my book collec ...more
Apr 03, 2011 kari rated it liked it
I was curious if this book would be interesting for those, like me, who have never read the Little House books. I attempted them both as a child and as an adult and never was able to make much progress before giving up. Maybe I don't find the romance in a family's continual hardships and dragging young children from place to place over and over. Having close family who grew up poor, with hand-me-down clothes, not enough to eat, getting nothing but an orange for Christmas, complete with using an ...more
Sep 12, 2011 Colleen rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Jun 28, 2013 D.A. rated it it was amazing
What is that lost place Americans began to yearn for in the 1970s as we stumbled into the post-Vietnam, post-Watergate era? For many, The Little House on the Prairie--both the series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and the television show based upon the books--represented a simpler and therefore more desirable past. Wendy McClure explores the meaning of this cultural phenomenon by retracing the history of the books and the towns that inspired them. With her good-natured husband along for the ...more
Apr 20, 2011 Jennifer rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
What I wanted from this book is not quite what I got, or what I was even expecting. I wanted McClure to throw herself into Laura Land (her words) as A.J. Jacobs did when he choose to immerse himself in the Bible for a who year and live by it, just to see what it was like. Instead, McClure just stands in Plum Creek for a few minutes and then moves on (and I mean that literally and figuritively).

At first, McClure *seems* like she is one of THOSE PEOPLE- people who are irrationally and irrevocably
The Library Lady
Sep 04, 2016 The Library Lady rated it it was ok
At the end of this book a friend of McClure's notes to her that this journey into Wilder World is about her. So is this self-indulgent

If you have read the Wilder books and most of the Wilder bios (and I read The First Four Years back when it was first published, so you can tell I've been reading them for decades!) there is little here that's new, aside from a snarky guided tour to the sites that will probably depress you. And she kind of snickers at Search For Laura Ingalls Wilder (and inte
Kendra Arnold
Dec 09, 2010 Kendra Arnold rated it it was amazing
This book was awesome! I was totally obsessed with Little House books and the show growing up, and always wanted to do a tour of Little House sites. Thankfully, Wendy did it for me! I still would do it tho.

Her attempts at churning butter with a churn she bought of ebay were inspiring, and I was surprised to hear that survivalists are sort of obsessed with Little House too. I can't wait to track down all the little house books she mentioned and read more about Rose, Laura's daughter. If I thought
Nov 18, 2011 jess rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook-d, ladyish, 2011
McClure set out to find the world and mythology of Laura Ingalls Wilder's successful novels. She goes to Little House pageants, home sites and museums. She churns butter, twists hay, sleeps in a faux covered wagon while separating fact from fiction and books from tv series. There are sunbonnets, wheat fields and replica log cabins. Along the way, McClure makes some sense of pieces of her own girlhood.

McClure muses over the Homestead Act, through which Indian land was deeded to white people. McCl
Nov 15, 2011 Dree rated it really liked it
So yeah, I loved the Little House books as a kid. I wanted to be Laura SO BAD. She had sisters! And her family sang and danced to Pa's fiddle! And they played in the creeks! And walked miles to school! And had adventures! And moved to new places! And everything always turned out for the best!

Yup, suburban hell me was jealous--subruban hell me who lived in one house, had short hair because it was easier for mom, who walked a block to school, and who's dad might not have even danced at his own wed
Mar 11, 2016 Relyn rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Laura fans
Recommended to Relyn by: spotted at Barnes and Noble
Shelves: abandoned, memoir
I was delighted to discover this book. A girl who loves Laura is a girl after my own heart. I was hooked when I read this,
"...well, you know what I really liked? I liked books with pictures of toast in them. Well, not just toast, you know, cups and ladles and baskets and hats, lovingly rendered in all their places in a room or even just little vignettes, but at any rate things in all their thinginess.

I pored over pages of Richard Scarry's Dictionary of Something-Or-Other, looking at all the lit
Dec 27, 2014 Sara rated it really liked it
Enjoyed reading about this young woman's "Laura" obsession, as it is one I shared as a child. Read and re-read every book in the series, but refused to watch the TV show as I knew it could never measure up!
Luanne Ollivier
Apr 18, 2011 Luanne Ollivier rated it it was amazing
Subtitled: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie.

When I saw The Wilder Life, I just knew I had to read it. I used to bicycle down to the Byron Library once a week and pester Miss Spicer for her next book recommendation. I had finished all of The Borrowers (I really wanted to live in their little mouse world) when she recommended Little House in the Big Woods. Well, I fell in love with this series and the whole kit and caboodle. I wanted to be Laura Ingalls. So did Wendy
Jun 05, 2011 Kalen rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011-reads
I liked the idea of this book better than I ultimately liked the book itself. (Though I did like the book okay--enough to give it 3 stars.) A few notes:

1. I read the first few pages standing up, I was so enthralled. Couldn't put it down. I think this is because I finally found someone (and it turns out there are a lot of us) who was as fond of Laura World as I was. McClure brought back a lot of my own memories of first reading the books and the pleasure I have always derived from re-reading them
Jun 06, 2011 Melinda rated it liked it
Alison Arngrim, whom you may recall wrote what I consider to be the The Official Perfect Little House On The Prairie Celebrity Memoir, called The Wilder Life "howlingly funny" and "irresistibly mad" in her back-cover blurb, which pretty much filled me with an overwhelming degree of anticipatory joy. You can imagine my heartbreak, then, to end up just kind of sort of liking it, rather than LOVING it. I don't know... something about the journey the author takes just didn't grab me. It seems like ...more
May 17, 2011 Catherine rated it it was amazing
This book will have huge appeal to a specific audience: women whose childhood infatuation with the Little House on the Prairie books never quite went away. The author keeps a sense of humor about her obsession, while providing thoughtful research and analysis of the fictional books v the reality. A few uneasy reactions I had upon re-reading the books as an adult were mentioned: for example, there is some rather overt racism at times; Pa’s urge to move was not always entirely due to a desire for ...more
Jan 14, 2012 Kelly rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about this book. I enjoyed it, but I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if I wasn't already such a LIW fan? McClure rediscovers Wilder when she is past her childhood. What about those of us who never lost her? I received Little House on the Prairie in 1977 and reread the series every couple of years. I watched the tv show, but saw it as something completely separate from the books. I already knew a lot about the family history and know some of the quoted authors through ...more
I'd read quite a few reviews of this prior to reading, so I knew a bit of what to expect. I'd seen it described as "irreverent" and "snarky," and I knew there was some crass language. Those detracting elements aside, the overriding theme of being obsessed with a beloved childhood series was something that I could wholeheartedly relate to, and that's why I ultimately chose to read this. I'm glad I did!

I think the parts that I enjoyed most were when the author delved into many of the Little House
Sep 07, 2011 Jacqueline rated it liked it
Shelves: library-books
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 reas
I could see Laura Ingalls Wilder everywhere. Really she was everywhere. She was no longer just a person but a universe made of hundreds of little bits, a historical fictional literary figure character person idea grandma-girl-thing.

My only encounters with Little House on the Prairie are the reruns I occasionally watch, this website (Psyched on the Prairie, I'm too lazy to re-embed it right now), which is excellent, and reading the awesome Confessions of a Prairie Bitch. Sadly, I never read a sin
Sam Ley
Oct 08, 2011 Sam Ley rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I'll confess - I've never read the "Little House" books. How then, did I end up reading this book about their author? While I've not read the books, I've known people my entire life who were shaped by them, and heard about them constantly. People have the same fantasies about showing Laura the wonders of the modern world, and wanting to cook things that Ma made in the stories.

I was also fascinated by a series of books that seemed to blur the line between non-fiction and fiction, being ostensibly
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Wendy McClure is an author and a children’s book editor.
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“Sometimes, Laura World wasn't a realm of log cabins or prairies, it was a way of being. Really, a way of being happy. I wasn't into the flowery sayings, but I was nonetheless in love with the idea of serene rooms full of endless quiet and time, of sky in the windows, of a life comfortably cluttered and yet in some kind of perfect feng shui equilibrium, where all the days were capacious enough to bake bread and write novels and perambulate the wooded hills deep in thought (though truthfully, I'd allow for the occasional Rose-style cocktail party as well).” 5 likes
“It didn't feel like the last night of anything anymore, just that the world went on and would follow us home” 3 likes
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