I grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s novels as a little girl, and I make a sojourn through the Little House series every few years. As a lifelong Midwesterner, The Long Winter is a personal favorite (perhaps because I relate to it, especially this past winter). I remember from pieces of autobiographies that Ingalls had left some details out, including the death of her baby brother, which is never mentioned in the series at all. I was curious to see how Wilder’s actual life stacked up to the series, which she had fictionalized from her life.
I enjoyed reading Wilder’s “adult” voice, particularly because she is more candid about certain details. She provides the correct chronology of her life: first came Indian territory (and there were a lot of interesting political details left out of the series), then Wisconsin, then Minnesota, then Iowa (where Freddie was born and died), then back to Minnesota (which is where Mary went blind), and then to Dakota territory. Her eventual meeting of Almanzo Wilder is actually a bit more prosaic than portrayed in the novels (and apparently, Wilder and her daughter fleshed out how they would organize this meeting in the novels), but it’s clear that they were a well-matched partnership–something I was glad to find out. I’m happy when couples seem to be as happy as portrayed.
I liked the memoir as a whole, especially the pictures and artifacts included in the memoir. There were several interesting pieces of Wilder’s life that I had never known–now I want to go to all the museums. One sidenote: if you read, don’t get overwhelmed by the footnotes. There are a few interesting details, but overall, I found myself getting distracted from the reading “flow.” I began to just skim the footnotes and keep my focus on the narrative.