Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Little House on the Prairie - - A Collaboration?

Laura Ingalls Wilder's stories of life in the west in the late 1800s have captivated children and adults for generations. Laura was a farm wife in her sixties, not a professional writer, when the first book, “Little House in the Big Woods,” was published during the depression. It was a difficult to sell any books leading people to wonder whether she wrote the book by herself, or with the help of a collaborator.

Rose Wilder Lane, Laura's daughter, was a published author. She hadn't lived on her parents farm for years, but just before the depression she went home for a visit. Her parents were getting older, and she wanted to make sure they had the resources to care for themselves before she returned to her life in New York. The depression hit in 1929, and Rose couldn't escape.

Laura had done some writing, mainly articles for rural newspapers. Rose encouraged her to write about her early life. The result was “Pioneer Girl.” Although glad her mother had tried to tell her story, Rose was shocked by how much work it would take to turn the pages into a salable product. This began the sometimes uneasy collaboration between mother and daughter.

The author has painted a detailed and sympathetic portrait of this mother and daughter. Her narrative, based on letters and diaries from both Laura and Rose, shows a sometimes stressful, but ultimately productive collaboration.

One of the best parts of the book is the description of life during the depression and later during the early years of the New Deal. The daily life of farmers caught in these difficult times coupled with the incredible heat and dust storms is frightening. I highly recommend this book if only for this picture
of the plains during these difficult years.

If you loved Laura Ingalls Wilder's books, you'll love this intimate portrait of her and her daughter Rose.


I reviewed this book for Net Galley.