Jun 18, 11
Read in June, 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 didn't like the author. 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.