Laura Ingalls Wilder's books were introduced to me at such a young age that I can hardly imagine not knowing about this amazing girl and her pioneer family. Even as an adult these are some of my most beloved books I remember from childhood and ones I try and introduce young readers to. Two summers ago I read the entire series to my children, and will probably do so again in another few years as my younger two daughters become older and will need to hear the stories again in order to really remember them.
Wendy McClure's book The Wilder Life chronicles her own obsession with all things Laura. Having read the books just a couple of years ago, McClure's references to different anecdotes in the various books are fresh in my mind, helping me to appreciate them all the more. And, although I would have considered myself fairly knowledgeable about the Ingalls family, McClure's research and intensity for this subject brought many things to light for me.
First of all, I was surprised by how much of the Little House books was fictionalized. Although I might have suspected that some of it was, I couldn't - still can't- believe that much of what Laura wrote never really happened to her. Yet, McClure's research proves it true, and while I believe her, I still can't quite grasp that fact.
McClure's own interest in the books wanes in almost the same place mine does. After The First Four Years, there is another book, Going West, that my mother bought me. Although I tried to read it as a child, I had little interest in it. I feel somewhat vindicated when I hear that was also McClure's response.
I have thought of taking my own children to Laura's various homes that are scattered in a few midwestern states. So far we have only visited the one in Burr Oak, Iowa, and when McClure talks of her stop there, I will admit to enjoying it especially much because I am able to visualize exactly what McClure writes about.
The Wilder Life was recently named a Barnes and Noble Discover New Writers Summer 2011 pick. It was interesting, entertaining, and an essential read for Laura fans.