Author: Wendy McClure
Author: Wendy McClure
McClure’s account of her attempt to find the world of Laura Ingalls both intrigued me and terrified me when I first heard of this book. As a girl whose childhood was firmly rooted in the 1970s, reading the entire Little House on the Prairie series, proud owner of a Hollie Hobbie comforter and walking my suburban neighborhood with a candy cigarette sticking out the side of my mouth, I instantly identified with her passion for the subject. But I admit a little flutter of fear when I read that she was setting out on a journey to uncover the truth about what it was like to be Laura Ingalls. Unfortunately, in my four decades on the planet, I have learned that most of the myths from my childhood don’t hold up under a spotlight.
McClure jumped in with both feet, re-reading the entire series and re-enacting activities common to the Ingalls’ daily life such as churning butter and preserving foods. She took full advantage of the knowledge of others like her who posted information on the Internet and made plans to visit as many of the original home-sites as she could.
She writes as someone who knows how absurd her immersion might seem, and at times fully acknowledges the craziness of it, all the while plowing forward in her quest to uncover the magic that the books instilled in her own life as a child. Her honest, clear-eyed approach is at times poignant and comical as she discovers that holding some suspension of disbelief is vital to maintaining the magic. Indeed, in a few places along the way, McClure does find herself squarely in the middle of an experience that perfectly mirrors her idea of what it must have been like to be Laura.
Her level of research and commitment to examining the stories is truly amazing given some of the disappointments she discovered along the way. One of her most seminal discoveries was the distinction between the world of the LHOP books and that of the television show. Each has its own following and the disparate groups are often at odds with each other. For those who watched the TV show, Michael Landon is Charles Ingalls. The book-lovers know that Michael Landon couldn’t possibly be clean-shaven and be an accurate representation of Laura’s father. The friends and family that joined in did so in a light-hearted manner that only adds to the fun of reading this book. For anyone who grew up reading these books, wishing she knew how to hand sew a perfect line of stitches or longing to fling her sunbonnet off in firm defiance, McClure’s adventures are a fantastic way to re-live some of the fantasy of Little House on the Prairie.