Review: The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure
Author: Wendy McClure
Publisher: Riverhead Press
Release Date: April 14, 2011
Rating: 4 Bookmarks
Nat’s One-Sentence Synopsis: A thoroughly researched and well-written memoir that chronicles Wendy McClure’s reawakening of her love for the Little House on the Prairie book series and the lengths she traveled to capture a bit of the magic in “Laura’s World.”
While some sections in The Wilder Life read like a doctoral dissertation on Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House on the Prairie book series, Wendy McClure manages to balance her research with humorous anecdotes detailing her efforts to live life prairie style. McClure is an erudite author with a knack for storytelling, and I was captivated by her adventure.
From churning butter in her living room, to traveling to Laura Ingalls/Little House on the Prairie-related museums and homesteads, McClure plunges into Wilder’s world determined to recapture a bit of childhood while staving off grief from her mother’s recent death.
Through her research, McClure learns that things might not have been as simple and quaint as Wilder portrayed them. Some sources question the time line and authorship of the novels–her daughter, Rose, may have had a hand in writing them- and some of Pa Ingalls’s land and business dealings may have been a touch suspect. McClure delves into the Homestead Act of 1862 and the interactions between settlers, the government, and the Native Americans.
McClure, sometimes accompanied by her intrepid boyfriend or plucky friends, takes epic journeys across the Midwest and beyond to pay tribute to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s museums and homesteads. She meets and chats up like-minded fans, sleeps in a covered wagon, and attends prairie-themed performances all in the name of her research.
Her travels, research, and writing ultimately deliver her home literally and figuratively. By the end of The Wilder Life, McClure seems better equipped to face and accept her mother’s death. She doesn’t exploit the death or the impact it had on her, but her reticence to discuss the death speaks volumes to me about the impact of the loss.
The Wilder Life is a wonderful journey filled with humor, educational facts, literary conjecture, and fond memories of a book series that I loved. I lived vicariously through McClure as she made the molasses snow candy, baked bread, and churned butter–things I always wanted to try after reading Laura’s enticing descriptions. This book is a must-read for any Little House on the Prairie book fans and will spark interest in reading the original series if you’ve never had the pleasure!
Have you read any or all of the Little House series? And, more importantly, have you ever churned butter or made candy from snow?!?