These Happy Golden Years is the last "real" book in the Little House series. There is another, much shorter, book afterward (The First Four Years) that was published from Laura Ingalls Wilder's notes and outlines, but this is the last she wrote. It ranks a very close second in my most favorite books ever.
It's interesting that my favorite two books are the first and the last in the series. In the first, Laura is a child. 6 or 7 years old. In the last, she's a "grown up," around 18 years old. There is quite a difference in the girl Laura and the woman Laura, and part of what I like about the book is looking back on how she used to be and comparing what she is in this book. I suppose that's what parents probably feel, but, whatever.
This is also the book where Laura falls in love, and probably why I love it so much. Almanzo is such a gentleman to her, and I love that this plain, brunette, stocky girl isn't destined to be a spinster (again,identification!) She may not be rich, or know how to flirt, or really even acknowledge their courtship, but Almanzo (who comes across to me as handsome and COOL) is still in love with her, and still asks her to marry him. Gah. As a 9 year old girl, this was the height of romance. The sleigh rides, and buggy rides, and Almanzo slipping her ring on her finger (not a diamond, since this is pre- Victorian engagement) during a buggy ride, and then the combs at christmas and showing up Christmas Eve! Gah! Old fashioned romance, I'm telling you.
I prefer to pretend their story ends at the end of These Happy Golden Years. I've since learned about the hardships Laura and Almanzo faced in their life together, and it really depresses me. They did not have an easy life. But if I pretend that this is the end, it's such a hopeful story. The wedding is over, they go back to their very own Little House that Almanzo built by himself, with a sheepdog, and the horses that started the whole courtship pulling the buggy. They have left over wedding food, and wedding cake, and sit on the front porch watching the twilight. Magic. Anything could happen.