The Wilder Life: Laura Ingalls Wilder


I read and loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books back in the 1970s. I had this crazy notion–and I know how this is going to sound–that I might even be the reincarnation of Laura. I didn’t share this idea with anyone else because I knew it was nuts and not really true. But I did like to think about it as a possibility. So much so that I wasn’t satisfied with just reading and re-reading the books. I read everything I could get my hands on about Wilder, including biographies and spin-offs, like a songbook and cookbook compiled from materials in the books.

And then I grew up and largely didn’t think about Wilder anymore. I’ve got the core set of books and have tried to interest Emma in them but so far, she’s not bitten. I haven’t pushed. I loved lots of other books during those years, some of which Emma has, too.

Then I heard about Wendy McClure’s new book, The Wilder Life, and put my name at the end of a long wait-list at the library. Clearly I’m not the only one with a Laura Ingalls Wilder fetish.

And guess what? McClure wondered if she, too, might be the reincarnation of Laura. So I wasn’t as crazy as I imagined.

Knowing this seems to speak to something about Wilder’s writing style, her ability to connect with girls between the ages of 8 and 12 (at least back in the ’70s). There’s something so personal and compelling about her writing in these books that not only pulls the reader in, but makes them believe they are there with Laura–are Laura–riding a pony bareback, standing in the tall prairie grass, or listening to Pa play the fiddle.

Reading McClure’s book proved something of a confirmation. I wasn’t alone in this strange childhood obsession. How about you? Did you love Wilder’s books as a kid?

3 thoughts on “The Wilder Life: Laura Ingalls Wilder

  1. Absolutely loved them. Must have borrowed them 4 zillion times from the library and them my mother gave each of the 6 of us kids one each – I was then borrwing my siblings’ books which made it less of a walk! Years later but still at school I had to study the the lines: “‘Courage!’ said he, and pointed to the land, This mounting wave will bear us homeward soon..” Well, you know where I first read *those* lines…Laura has mee exposed to Wordsworth first!

  2. Pingback: This Life is in your Hands « kelly mcmichael

  3. I enjoyed her books, certainly. My favorite in the series, however, was actually Almanzo’s story in Farmer Boy. Then again, I was a tomboy growing up, so my favoring Almanzo’s narrative probably makes sense. Laura’s obsession with dolls was a black hole of weirdness to me.

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