In the High Peaks

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Wilder Life (The Laura Ingalls Kind)

When I left the college for the last time this semester, I drove straight to Crandall Library to get a large fix of books. On hold for me was a book I ordered: The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure.

I have been a Laura Ingalls Wilder devotee since I was ten years old and have enjoyed the series even more as an adult. I think the writing is exquisite--simple, yes, yet full of clear images and events that linger long after reading.

The book that hooked me at age 10? The Long Winter, in which the Ingalls family struggles to survive the starvation brought on by the historic winter of (oh, help! my research betrays me!). Well, it was sometime in the early 1880s in Dakota Territory. (Pardon to those who have read this before.)

It wasn't until I was an adult and did extensive research that I discovered how close the Ingallses and their neighbors in the town of De Smet (now South Dakota) came to death by starvation, and how Laura and her family surely would have died had they stayed on their homestead on the plains that winter. Others certainly did. Fortunately, Pa and Ma had the foresight and good sense to take the financial risk of renting rooms in town for the duration.

In The Wilder Life, Wendy McClure reveals her life-long fascination for all things "Little House" and chronicles her adventures to satisfy her obsession, including pilgrimages to the cabin and homestead sites and lots of information to illuminate the history behind the book.

I admire the massive research she undertook for the book, ferreting out all kinds of information that answer questions most inquiring, intellectual adult minds have about issues and problems in the Little House series.

The only thing I don't like about this book (and I really, really, really don't like this) is that McClure often does not tell exactly where she got her information--I'm talking a lack of bibliography here. Footnotes would not have hurt either. The Wilder Life, I realize, is conversational in tone and is meant to entertain, but it suffers for lack of a complete bibliography. People want to know! Why wouldn't McClure reveal all her sources? She does include a "Selected Bibliography" at the conclusion of the book, but right off the bat, I noticed at least one good scholarly source about the Little House series that did not make the list. I'm sure she consulted it.

The Little House book I need to read and add to my collection: Little House on the Prairie, when the Ingalls family moves to Indian Territory in Kansas. Please do see Katrina's May 17 post about the book (blogger of Pining for the West).

1 comment:

  1. I'll definitely have to get the McClure book, but how annoying not to have footnotes and such. I like to be able to see which other books I might want to read on whatever the subject is. It seems a bit selfish not to share her info around!