Attraction to Simpler Life, Simpler Times Simpler Choices?
Shannon Marchese, senior editor fiction
When I borrowed the boxed set of Little House novels nearly twenty-five years ago, the nine books were in pristine condition. The butter-yellow paperbacks with firm spines and colorful Garth Williams-illustrated drew me in like a fly to salt pork. And instead of taking tender care of Laura Ingalls Wilders novels, I read them to pieces, literally. I had to buy a replacement set for my cousin, and I continue reading that old, ratty set to this day. True confession it wouldnt be unusual to find a tattered copy of Little Town on the Prairie in my bedside book pile.
Our family also watched the Michael Landon television show. It ran on Monday nights and later, in rampant syndication, and I can recount so many of the episodes, despite knowing that the non-fictional Charles Ingalls was as likely to throw a punch as he was to send a text message. So it is no surprise that Id be attracted to Wendy McClures Laura World adventure, The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie.
The author, an editor for Albert Whitman & Company, delves into the Little House settings and facts with fervor. She churns butter, grinds wheat, and envisions walking in Lauras shoes by visiting all the historic Ingalls homesteads. McClure wrote: I wanted to go to Laura World: I wanted to visit the places where Laura Ingalls and her family had lived, in Wisconsin and Kansas and Minnesota and South Dakota and Missouri. All these years I hadnt quite believed that the places in the books existed, but they did…
I wanted to read McClures book because I am interested in Lauras life Lauras real, nonfictional life. The Little House books are classified as fiction. I love reading about Lauras world, but growing up as a farm kid, I never really wanted to live there. Honestly, we had enough chores.
As the author of The Wilder Life explores the ongoing attraction for the Little House world, she speculates that the past is viewed as simpler and this perception draws us to Laura and her family. A set group of chores was slated for each day, designed to keep food on the table and shelter over their heads. In the evenings, Pa played his fiddle and the family might sing or read Sunday School papers. The books create images of joy found in a litter of new kittens, oranges in Christmas stockings, or visiting family. No one needed to own an iPad, attend challenging yoga classes, or vacation in Cabo San Lucas.
I appreciate McClures book because it reveals some of those simple joys to be true of Lauras life, but Id hesitate to recommend it unless you are a) a big fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder and b) accepting of the authors vague journey of self-discovery. I believe my love for Lauras world is rooted in the values we were both raised to cherish; faith in God, commitment to hard work, and love of your family.
In complicated times, a reminder of those simple values can be as attractive as well, as a fly to salt pork.
Shannon Marchese has worked in books since 1995. She is the senior editor of fiction and the domain keeper of all things related to children at WaterBrook Multnomah, including the resident mascot of the group, nearly year-old Sylvie Marchese. Shannon will not be making a pilgrimage to all the Laura Ingalls Wilder homesites, but will read The Long Winter again when the temperature drops below 10 degrees.