Wendy McClure, The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie
An adventure through the surprisingly grown-up world of the beloved children's series
Though the 1970s TV series starring Michael Landon cemented its status as a classic, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie was also undone by that family-friendly program. When she tried to revisit the cozy inner life she created as a child in conjunction with the books, author Wendy McClure realized Wilder’s world was a lot more textured and adult than the happily-ever-after TV show — and the truth behind the books is even odder still.
McClure is at her best when she’s reveling with contagious giddiness in the strange backstory of Wilder’s books, but her return to what she dubs “Laura World” isn’t done solely via research. McClure also tries out authentic Little House recipes — the kind that call for two pounds of lard — and visits as many Ingalls family homestead sites as she can find. Her physical recreation of frontier life can drag the book down into navel-gazing hipster nostalgia — her trips to long-gone homesteads are self-consciously elegiac as she searches for meaning in her life from young adult novels — but McClure is so genuinely funny in recreating fellow fans’ strange love for a pre-electric-age world that the occasional dips are forgivable.