Author: Wendy McClure
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“For anyone who has ever wanted to step into the world of a favorite book, here is a pioneer pilgrimage, a tribute to Laura Ingalls Wilder, and a hilarious account of butter-churning obsession.
Wendy McClure is on a quest to find the world of beloved Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder-a fantastic realm of fiction, history, and places she’s never been to, yet somehow knows by heart. She retraces the pioneer journey of the Ingalls family- looking for the Big Woods among the medium trees in Wisconsin, wading in Plum Creek, and enduring a prairie hailstorm in South Dakota. She immerses herself in all things Little House, and explores the story from fact to fiction, and from the TV shows to the annual summer pageants in Laura’s hometowns. Whether she’s churning butter in her apartment or sitting in a replica log cabin, McClure is always in pursuit of the Laura experience. Along the way she comes to understand how Wilder’s life and work have shaped our ideas about girlhood and the American West.”
Thoughts: I was one of those little girls who wanted to step into the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder. One of my last Halloween costumes was as a pioneer girl, complete with sunbonnet. I didn’t have the long hair, so I couldn’t complete the outfit with pigtail braids, but I had a shawl and everything. Of course, wearing a sunbonnet at night probably wasn’t the safest idea, but I was adamant. I also have the Laura Ingalls Wilder cookbook and have made quite a few things from its pages. Thanks to Ms. McClure, I know I was not alone in my obsession.
The Wilder Life is Ms. McClure’s acceptance and fulfillment of her own Laura obsession. She talks frequently about her need to find Laura World. Her visits to the various homesites are thrilling and make me want to take a similar trip one day. Yet, what is truly fascinating is her uncovering of the factual versus fictional elements of these novels. I never considered the fact that they are on the fiction shelves in the library for a reason. Like, Ms. McClure, this discovery left me a bit shaken, much to my chagrin.
Ms. McClure’s writing is engaging and thoroughly enjoyable. She lets the reader inside her head and inside her life as she made this journey. Her frankness and humor makes her an author the reader can easily see becoming a close friend. This conversational tone lends itself well to the material, as it really is all about her journey of self-discovery, what was driving her need to find Laura World and what she uncovered along the way.
Never preachy and definitely not boring, Ms. McClure shares what makes Laura so fascinating to her and sheds light on why others have been so intrigued by her. Whether one is a fan from the novels or from the TV show, The Wilder Life has something for anyone who has wanted to see a sod dugout, ride in a covered wagon, or make vanity cakes just because they want to know what it was like for Laura.