WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW'S 10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR
The first comprehensive historical biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the beloved author of the Little House on the Prairie books
Millions of readers of Little House on the Prairie believe they know Laura Ingalls—the pioneer girl who survived blizzards and near-starvation on the Great Plains, and the woman who wrote the famous autobiographical books. But the true saga of her life has never been fully told. Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser—the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House series—masterfully fills in the gaps in Wilder’s biography. Revealing the grown-up story behind the most influential childhood epic of pioneer life, she also chronicles Wilder's tumultuous relationship with her journalist daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, setting the record straight regarding charges of ghostwriting that have swirled around the books.
The Little House books, for all the hardships they describe, are paeans to the pioneer spirit, portraying it as triumphant against all odds. But Wilder’s real life was harder and grittier than that, a story of relentless struggle, rootlessness, and poverty. It was only in her sixties, after losing nearly everything in the Great Depression, that she turned to children’s books, recasting her hardscrabble childhood as a celebratory vision of homesteading—and achieving fame and fortune in the process, in one of the most astonishing rags-to-riches episodes in American letters.
Spanning nearly a century of epochal change, from the Indian Wars to the Dust Bowl, Wilder’s dramatic life provides a unique perspective on American history and our national mythology of self-reliance. With fresh insights and new discoveries, Prairie Fires reveals the complex woman whose classic stories grip us to this day.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Not sure about it...
Interesting information throughly mixed with the author's opinions. Fraser's contempt for both Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter is quite obvious. Wilder's stories are wonderful, and much beloved by generations; whether or not they are 100% true does not change that one iota. Wilder did not set out to write factual history, but to create wonderful stories for children that honored her family. Fraser's attitude of castigating Wilder and Lane for their writing process and accuracy is just silly. Still, the book contains very interesting information if you can ignore the author's bias.
An Absorbing Read
As a child, I was devoted to the Little House books. I had both the paperbacks and hardbacks. There was a time in my life that I never went anywhere without one of the books in my hands. But slowly, over the years, I stopped carrying them around. I had grown up and learned more about the larger world, and that it’s best not to idealize anything too much. Caroline Fraser isn’t reporting anything that hasn’t already been known about Laura Ingalls Wilder, or her daughter. What Fraser has done is write a very engaging, factual biography bursting with details set against the historical period of her subjects. In my late teens I had heard about Grace Wilder Lane’s extremist, reactionary right-wing beliefs and in my early twenties I first found out that the books weren’t exactly written by Laura Ingalls Wilder alone, and that she most likely had some sort of help from Lane. Learning those things didn’t dim the light of the Little House books for me, because the Little House books belonged to my childhood and will forever stay there. I’ll never be able to read the books again with the same perspective as I did when I first read them, because I’ve matured. I’ve learned as an adult that people are complex. They have many sides and no one can be refreshing as a summer’s breeze all the time. People have faults and some people have very big faults, it’s part of being human. Caroline Fraser has held nothing back in her biography and for some people it might be too much if they prefer their facts a little less honest.
An expected dishonest diatribe.