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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Book Review - A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert

About The Book:

In 1928, Rose Wilder Lane-world traveler, journalist, highly-paid magazine writer-returned from an Albanian sojourn to her parents' Ozark farm. Almanzo Wilder was 71 and Laura 61, and Rose felt obligated to stay and help. Then came the Crash. Rose's investments vanished and the magazine market dried up. That's when Laura wrote "Pioneer Girl," her story of growing up in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, on the Kansas prairie, and by the shores of Silver Lake. The rest is literary history. But it isn't the history we thought we knew.

Based on the unpublished diaries of Rose Wilder Lane and other documentary evidence, A Wilder Rose tells the surprising true story of the often strained collaboration that produced the Little House books-a collaboration that Rose and her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder, concealed from their agent, editors, reviewers, and readers.

 Acclaimed author Susan Wittig Albert follows the clues that take us straight to the heart of this fascinating literary mystery

My Thoughts:

The subtitle to this book is "Rose Wilder Lane, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Their Little Houses," and it very aptly describes this fascinating fictional accounting of the lives of Rose Wilder and her mother, the beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder, creator of the "Little House On The Prairie" books.

I say "creator" because throughout this book, Susan Wittig Albert points out that while the stories and memories of Laura are the basis of the children's classics, it is more than probable that her daughter Rose was the actual wordsmith behind the series.

Albert follows the journey of the mother/daughter duo during the Depression, a time period of extreme financial hardship and emotional turmoil for the both women. Rose had returned home from Europe after the dissolution of a close relationship to help her aging parents, and rediscovers that her relationship with her mother is still one that is often fraught with stress and discord. Tension between the two women ramps up when Laura approaches Rose to help her "fine-tune" her memoirs of her childhood. A successful magazine writer in her own right, Rose expresses exasperation and stress over the time that must be spent working on her mother's ill-written books and how it takes her away from her own career and activities. And it's this sentiment that causes such friction between mother and daughter throughout the book.

Albert's intense research of both Rose and Laura, their family and friends and the world they experiences in the late 1920s through the 1930s is obvious to the reader as this story unfolds and plays out. She certainly gives a very different view of Laura Ingalls Wilder, often painting her as a petulant and demanding woman - far removed from most people's perception of who Wilder was - the sweet, pigtailed "Half-Pint" so many of us grew up watching on the television series adapted from Wilder's books. Albert also present Rose as a rather selfish woman who barely tolerates her mother and longs to escape from her self-imposed exile on the family farm.

This is an interesting book, and is very well-written, as fans of Albert's have come to expect through her charming mystery series.  For me, it was a difficult read as I struggled to "like" the characters of Rose and Laura throughout the story. But pulling emotions from readers is an author's ultimate job, and Albert successfully does so with this intriguing book.

About The Author:

Susan Wittig Albert is the author of nearly 50 popular mysteries, including the acclaimed China Bayles and Darling Dahlias series; over 60 books for young adults; two memoirs; and books for women on life-writing and work. A graduate of the University of Illinois (Urbana) and the University of California at Berkeley, she is a former university English professor and administrator.

My thanks to the author for providing a review copy of this book. I was not compensated for my opinion.

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susanalbert said...

Sharon, if it's hard to read about two not-quite-likable people, imagine how difficult it is to write about them. There's a huge temptation to make them more likable, but that would mean prettying them up--and that would be misleading. I wanted people to see them as they were, and feel sympathy for them, given the hard times in which they lived.--Thanks for a thoughtful review!

Sharon Galligar Chance said...

Thanks for stopping by, Susan!