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

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3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  5,950 ratings  ·  1,319 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 never been
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Hardcover, 336 pages
Published April 14th 2011 by Riverhead (first published April 1st 2011)
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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 (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
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 ho
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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: I di
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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
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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 t ...more
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 wa
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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 w ...more
kari
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
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 (
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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 endear ...more
Juliana
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
Jennifer
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
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D.A.
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 ad ...more
Kathryn
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
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 o ...more
Kendra Arnold
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
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Dree
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
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Catherine
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
jess
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
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Kelly
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
Kalen
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
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Jacqueline
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
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Luanne Ollivier
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
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Sario Lawrence
A book about books that I loved as a child is destined to be a winner for me! Wendy McClure seemed to have enjoyed the Little House books as much as I did, even going so far as to read Laura's other unpopular journals (On the Way Home and West From Home). As an adult, revisiting the appeal of these books and searching for the Real Laura Experience, Wendy dives deep into Little House culture. She visits all the homesteads, discovers the 70's Japanese Anime Little House series (Laura, the Prairie ...more
G
Any Little House on the Prairie fan is going to LOVE reading this book! I'm so excited that I get to giveaway a copy of this book!

The Wilder Life one of those books you take to bed, read all night, and makes you laugh and cry. When you wake up the next morning, you don’t even mind how exhausted you are, because the book you read was a book well worth reading. Wendy McClure has written a book so instantly beloved by me, she’s made her way into my heart and made herself my new author B.F.F. She ha
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Caitlin Opeil
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
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Shannon
I didn't even finish this book; it bored me too much. This book was poorly organized and simply not interesting enough. For example, one chapter could start out with the author's trip to a Little House landmark and then she would go into talking about the TV show which would lead into talking about a movie made in 2005. I also thought there would be more trying to integrate more "Laura World" into modern day life a la Julie and Julia (like trying quilting and talking about the experience for ins ...more
Karen Stinneford
I am mixing up my teenage girl protagonists by quoting Anne Shirley, but I felt like Wendy McClure was a real kindred spirit when I read this, her account of longing to capture the innocence, hope and perseverance of the Little House series in her modern day life. McClure tells of churning butter and making bread and visiting the "real" sites of the books. Her description of visiting De Smet was very similar to my own experience -- going to relive the wonder of These Happy Golden Years and inste ...more
Audrey
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
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Sam Ley
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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Book Giveaways: The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure 1 10 Dec 02, 2011 07:00AM  
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder Country: The People and Places in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Life and books
  • The Heroine's Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated
  • The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared
  • All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey with Jane
  • Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading
  • A Little House Traveler: Writings from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Journeys Across America
  • My Life as Laura: How I Searched for Laura Ingalls Wilder and Found Myself
  • Made for You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home
  • This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family Undone
  • Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading
  • Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her
  • Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman behind the Legend
  • One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding
  • Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women
  • See You in a Hundred Years: Four Seasons in Forgotten America
  • A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter
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Wendy McClure is an author, a columnist for BUST magazine, and a children’s book editor.
More about Wendy McClure...
I'm Not the New Me The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan: Classic Diet Recipe Cards from the 1970s Wanderville Don't Trade the Baby for a Horse: And Other Ways to Make Your Life a Little More Laura Ingalls Wilder The Princess and the Peanut Allergy

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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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