Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure

Title: The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie
Author: Wendy McClure
ISBN: 9781594487804
Publisher: Riverhead, 2011
Hardcover, 352 pages
Genre: Memoirs
Rating: B+
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewer program

First Line: I was born in 1867 in a log cabin in Wisconsin and maybe you were, too.

Thus begins Wendy McClure's memoir of her attempt to relive her obsession with a series of children's books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. As a child, she loved the Little House books and dreamed of showing Laura the modern world. As an adult, she begins researching online, obtaining books written about the author and her family, and making pilgrimages to many of the Little House sites. Having missed the television series starring Michael Landon as a child, she watches all the episodes and finds other films based on the much-loved books.

McClure has a witty turn of phrase, as when describing Laura's arch enemy Nellie Oleson (who was actually a composite of three people) as "some kind of blond Frankenstein assembled from assorted bitch parts," and her list of things she learned from buying a dash churn on eBay is laugh-out-loud funny. She didn't stop with learning how to churn butter; she also bought an antique coffee grinder, ground seed wheat, and made bread just like Laura and her family did in The Long Winter. Throughout it all, she had the support of her husband, Chris, and that makes him a pretty special guy.

It's not necessary to be a Little House fan to enjoy this book, which is by turns thoughtful and funny. The book has a lot to say about how we react to momentous events in our lives as well as the power of obsession. However, as an older fan who read all the Little House books in hardcover and imagined herself in Laura's world, I think The Wilder Life will have special meaning for fans. As I turned the pages of McClure's books, I found myself remembering my own Little House days and what an impact those books had on my own life.


  1. I loved Little House on television but never read the books. However, when I lived in Conn. I discovered Laura's daughter lived her last years in Danbury, CT where she was quite the local character. During WW II she had a victory garden and even raised her own meat. She refused to pay taxes though because she was against war. Got into lots of trouble and was notorious for what people thought of as her wacky opinions. The daughter also claimed to have rewritten all of Laura's books to make them publishable.

  2. I was a fan, so I bet I'll love this book!

  3. Barbara-- Rose Wilder Lane was a very different creature from her mother, and McClure's book goes into this. I watched less than a dozen episodes of the TV series because Michael Landon simply was NOT Pa Ingalls!

    Kathy-- You probably would!

  4. I loved the Little House books! I so wanted to be Laura. And, I never could, and still can't, watch the TV series. They took so many liberties that I just can't do it!

    This one has been on my list and I'm glad to know it's so good.
    2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews

  5. I've read a couple chapters of this book so far and agree with you, her turn of phrase is great! Loved your review!

  6. Holly-- I have to admit that the (very) few episodes I watched made me furious!

    Leah-- Thanks!


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