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The Wilder Life, Wendy McClure

2011/11/03

“Little House on the Prairie” has long been considered one of the classics of children’s literature, and even today, amid the onslaught of fantasy and horror being published for young adults, is still held in high regard. Wendy McClure, a children’s book editor, chronicles her adventures in “Laura World” as she researches Wilder’s life, unravels the fiction from the fact in the stories, and makes multiple road trips to sites mentioned in the books. Along the way, she educates her boyfriend, Chris, in the ways of Little House, and he becomes her constant companion on trips to working farms, museums, historic monuments, and more. McClure proceeds somewhat chronologically through the series, beginning with explorations of “Little House in the Big Woods,” and attempting to match events in the story to the historical timeline. She finds many inconsistencies along the way, which becomes one of the main points of the book — determining the line between fiction and nonfiction, and deciding how much that influences her belief in and interaction with the stories.

Although I would consider myself a fan of the Little House books, I found myself growing tired of this particular exploration about halfway through. Visits to sites start to blur together, and even as McClure becomes disillusioned with her expectations, so the reader may become bored with her ramblings. I did find her encounter with the homeschoolers who idolize Wilder and her self-sustaining lifestyle to be quite humorous, especially since McClure herself is at such odds with their conservative and religious mindset. I imagine that this book might be interesting to a determined fan who already has a good grasp on the truth and fiction in Wilder’s novels; however, to a casual fan, the amount of information and reminiscing is overwhelming and admittedly, becomes a bit tedious.

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