The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure

I had the Little House series as a child and wore the covers off them from reading the books so much; the books’ depiction of windswept prairies and familial determination was very appealing at the time.  In retrospect, it seems odd that reading about the hardships of a pioneer family passed for escapism, but then, it was the 1970s, and LOTS of people caught the Laura Ingalls Wilder bug – enough to have a long-running television series that resembled the books less and less as the seasons progressed.  With the excesses of the 1970s, there was a pronounced nostalgia for simpler times; it was the decade of the Waltons, too, lest we forget.

Reading the books was sufficient for me; I never felt compelled to visit Laura’s homes and haunts, collect Wilderabilia, or expound passionately on all things Laura. But apparently some people did and still do, and the author is definitely one of them.  McClure writes about her adventures as a Wilder maven with great enthusiasm and wit.  She is of the generation that grew up with the book and TV series, and her escapades into her version of Laura World are funny, revealing, and occasionally disillusioning – mainly funny, as when she tries to do Laura-esque types of things, such as churning butter.  The author also makes the pilgrimages to every imaginable Ingalls home site; sometimes the latter-day settings don’t quite jibe with her imagination.

Her fellow devotees are no less intriguing – the people McClure meets along her trips into Laura Land have a passion and thoroughness about their favorite subject that is sometimes scary.  But there are plenty of contacts that keep the author steered towards the straight truth about the Ingalls family and their travels. 

The bibliography is brief but packed; McClure did a great job with her research. In The Wilder Life, she has provided a great sense of fun and life with her take on this much-loved set of books. 

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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