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

The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure
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's review
Jul 21, 12

bookshelves: non-fiction, little-house
Read in July, 2012

When I read the first line in Wendy McClure's book, "I was born in 1867 in a log cabin in Wisconsin and maybe you were, too", I said out loud "Yes, I was!" It's always interesting to read about obsessions with Laura Ingalls Wilder. Like Wendy McClure, I believed I had a special connection to Laura when I was a child. Laura was born in 1867. I was born in 1967. That practically made Laura and me twins!

Wendy's path with Laura is very similar to mine. I read the books passionately and repeatedly when I was young (with the exception of Farmer Boy, which I read only once). I felt like the Ingalls were my other family. In my early 20s I lived in Minnesota for a while, and when I was there I realized that I was very close to the "Out West" that Pa had moved his family to. While I lived there, I re-read all the books, and read a lot of other books about Laura. I've traveled to most of the Little House sites: Pepin, WI (twice), DeSmet, SD (twice), Walnut Grove, MN (once), and Mansfield, MO (once). So, I identified with Wendy's rediscovery of Laura, and her desire to learn more.

I enjoyed Wendy's journeys to the Little House sites, and reading about her experiences and feelings at each one. I wasn't fond of her calling the places and time that Laura wrote about as "Laura World", though, simply because in my head I think of it all as "Little House". "Laura World" sounds too much like an amusement park, which is an interesting point: the author had some emotional trouble in DeSmet, something she couldn't quite identify. I also had emotional trouble in DeSmet, but it was because the Ingalls Homestead has been turned into something that felt like a theme park to me. The first time I visited DeSmet, in 1991, the ONLY thing on the Homestead site was an historical marker near the Cottonwoods. I relished standing there in solitude with nothing but the wind, the sky, and the grass; I was experiencing first-hand all those things I'd read about so many times as a child. When I returned to the Ingalls Homestead site in 2010, I was dismayed by the parking lot, the cabins, the picnic area, the programs... An organized event wasn't how I wanted to experience that place, and it made me inexplicably sad. I felt like something had been lost.

It's clear that Laura Ingalls Wilder and her childhood are an important part of a lot of people's childhoods, even today, 130 years later. I enjoyed reading this personal account of someone's relationship with Laura.


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