The Wilder Life


The Wilder Life

One night this winter, I decided to see how other people felt about the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and came across a soon-to-be released book The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie, by Wendy McClure.  Laura geek that I am, I requested it at the library for the moment it came out.

A few months later, I had forgotten about it until one trip when the librarian said, “Oh, I have something for you!” and delivered this bit of goodness into my outstretched hands.

The Wilder Life.  It’s a memoir written by a woman who becomes so enamored of the comfortable scenes in the Little House books that she does everything she can to be a part of the world.  She bakes Long Winter bread, churns butter, and embarks on an epic, on-again, off-again trip to visit the homesites.

She’s also funny.  Wicked funny, as we would say if we were still in New Hampshire:

“I wanted to go out into the backyard and just, I don’t know, grab stuff off trees, or uproot things from the ground, and bring it all inside in a basket and have my parents say, “My land! What a harvest!  There were a host of other things from the books that I remember I wanted to do too, such as: Make candy by pouring syrup in the snow.  Make bullets by pouring lead.  Sew a seam with tiny and perfectly straight stitches.  Have a man’s hands span my corseted waist, which at the time didn’t seem creepy at all.”

Wendy makes fun of herself for loving these things.  She makes fun of other Little House lovers too — to the point where it’s a bit off-putting at times.  Irreverent, they call it.  Keep reading, and it’ll get better.

As she journeys, Wendy realizes a few things.  She learns facts about Laura that she doesn’t want to learn.  She feels lost and grumpy at the homesites instead of transported, and expects more out of it than she gets.  She tries to grab at the history, as if learning and owning everything she can will make her happy.

She doesn’t think the Laura Ingalls Wilder books promote simplicity.

Reader, would you be surprised that I almost put down the book when I read that?  I was impatient with Wendy to get to the point, impatient for her to realize that simple does not mean easy, and that having everything in reach doesn’t mean happiness.

In the end, Wendy got it. She realized that Laura’s books and her own journey are “a love letter to the promise of success and prosperity,” as she says, and let everything go.  Because you can always write love letters, but then you must live life as best you can.

If that’s not simplicity, then I don’t know what is.

Pick up The Wilder Life and give it a read.  See if you come to the same conclusions I have, and enjoy the many, many details I left out.  It’s a good book for “bonnet-heads” (as Wendy calls us), and a good book about the pursuit of happiness.  This savvy girl couldn’t ask for more.


©2011 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where this book looks so friendly that I felt like I was carrying a friend around in my hands.  I love books like that.  Book image courtesy of Amazon.  The other photos are mine.  Also, I have no affiliations with either Wendy McClure or Amazon.  I read this book and loved it, and wanted to share it with you.  End of story.

4 responses

  1. After watching Frontier House on PBS, I knew that pioneer living was not easy, though “simple”. It was also hard. Knowing that Laura’s father loved progress, I would say that for them, making life easier might have made it simpler.

  2. Oh, this is going on the wishlist! As a child, I was a member of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historical Society (I think that is what it was called) and refused to watch the TV show with my friends because as a LIW purist, I detested how much it strayed from the books. I even got my parents to work in some home site visits in some of our trips.

    I also enjoyed the Frontier House series that the previous commenter mentioned.

  3. Ha ha “bonnet-heads”. We’ve call movies “bonnets” (you know, Sense and Sensibility and the like), but I’ve never heard the term bonnet-head. I love it. PS-we’ve been watching Edwardian Farm lately, and it gives us the same kind of nostalgic back to the land feelings I think you get from Wilder.

    • I watched Edwardian Farm too! Until my computer decided to stop playing it for me. But up to that point, I really liked it. And Wendy McClure calls herself a “bonnet-head,” which makes me laugh, even though the bonnet is the thing I associate least with Laura Ingalls Wilder.