Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser - A Book Review and More


Prairie Fires - The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser
I was raised on the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My mother read them aloud to me when I was very young; then, when I learned to read, I read them for myself...over and over again. I felt that Laura had written the books just for me. I had put Laura Ingalls Wilder up on a pedestal that she was about to be knocked off of.

The first blow came when visiting Rocky Ridge (Laura and Almanzo's home and museum in Mansfield, Missouri) for the first time. It was there that I discovered there was a whole world of people out there that knew about Laura's books and that they loved her just as much as I did! I felt betrayed! 😳 (I think I was eight...maybe nine-years-old.)

It didn't detour me though. I was still fascinated with Laura's stories and I hung on to every word of them. I never tired of reading the series and I read them and re-read them over and over again with my own children. Our youngest and I used the series as the basis of our literature one year using The Prairie Primer by Margie Gray which fell out into all kinds of unit studies. 

My fascination with Laura Ingalls Wilder continued until my husband bought me the book Little House in the Ozarks - A Laura Ingalls Wilder Sampler - The Rediscovered Writings edited by Stephen W. Hines. It was then that I discovered that there was more to Laura Ingalls Wilder than was revealed in the Little House series and, somehow, her life just didn't seem as pleasant. The image was tarnished and it frightened me. In fact, I never finished the book. The truth is, I barely started it. 😞

And I never did like Rose (Laura's daughter). I couldn't tell you why though. I just didn't. I remember checking out Let The Hurricane Roar by Rose Wilder Lane at the school library as and I couldn't read it. It was like I sensed that there was something wrong and that somehow Rose had used it to hurt Laura. Isn't that strange? 😲

Anyway, after all these crazy mixed up feelings about a woman...an author...a total stranger...that died before I was even born and was someone that I would never know, Prairie Fires - The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser has finally brought me middle of the road and helped me to accept the truth that Laura Ingalls Wilder was a real person, with real feelings, and real life stuff happened to her on every front. 

I'm convinced that Prairie Fires is the most in-depth look into the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder that has been (or ever will be) written and I am totally fascinated by it!

Not only does the book tell us more of Laura's story, but it also delves into a bit more of her family history and into the history of the characters that made the Little House series come alive.

Drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser (the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House series) fills in the gaps in Laura's biography. She reveals the grown-up story behind the most influential childhood epic of pioneer life and chronicles Laura's tumultuous relationship with her journalist daughter, Rose Wilder Lane.

Today I love Laura Ingalls Wilder more than ever and, after reading Prairie Fires, I have a new found respect for this dear lady whose life spanned nearly a century of change, from the Indian Wars to the Dust Bowl, providing us a unique perspective on American history and a lesson in self-reliance.

At 640 pages (hardcover) Prairie Fires isn't a fast read, but it's a read that I highly recommend for anyone who is a fan of, or has been touched by, Laura Ingalls Wilder's life in any way. 💗

Until next time...
~Rebecca

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