“Fraser’s biography of the author of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and other beloved books about her childhood during the era of westward migration captures the details of a life — and an improbable, iconic literary career — that has been expertly veiled by fiction.”
Featured in New York Times’ Best 10 Books of 2017.
Everyone who has read ‘Little House on the Prairies’ by the inimitable Laura Ingalls Wilder believes that they know who she was. The autobiographical tales she tells of near-starvation and surviving blizzards show a pioneer girl. However, until now there hasn’t been a biography that genuinely looks into the life of this historical and literary giant.
That has changed. Caroline Fraser uses letters, unpublished manuscripts, land records, financial records and diaries to provide the pieces that flesh out Laura Wilder’s life story beyond her autobiographical tales. She takes us into the life of the adult when so many of us only knew of the child, and in doing so, she also tells of the volatile relationship between Laura and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane. The narrative also serves to finally set to rest the rumors of ghostwriting that had plagued her works.
While the Little House books tell of dangerous and difficult circumstances, underlying is an ode to and celebration of the pioneer spirit, which seems to win against all the odds. However, Laura’s own life was much grittier and harder than that as she battled poverty and rootlessness and endured an almost continuous struggle. The Great Depression was the catalyst for her to move into writing at the age of sixty; she had lost almost everything in the collapse. She started writing children’s books and detailed the struggles of her childhood in a way that seemed almost a hymn to homesteading. The books were enormously successful and gained her fame and fortune – the quintessential American dream.
Fraser traces Laura’s life which was certainly a dramatic one in a way that gives a unique insight into American history and the American Dream. Prairie Fires provides us with new perspectives and information that bring forth the complex character that was Laura Ingalls Wilder.