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Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman behind the Legend (MISSOURI BIOGRAPHY SERIES) Hardcover – May 31, 1998
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What happened between the adolescent years, dramatized in her novels, and the period between 1943 and 1957, when she was basking in the glow of her readers' affection? "To write her 'autobiographical' novels," Miller notes, "Wilder needed to undergo a process of becoming, which depended heavily upon the inheritance that she had received both from her family and, across the years, from the various environments in which she lived."
One minor flaw in this otherwise reverent biography is Miller's incredulity that such an ordinary, farm-town woman could become such a famous and sophisticated author. He strains to identify the extraordinary, formative moments--Wilder's various memberships in local political organizations; her apprenticeship as a farm-journal columnist; her relationship with her talented and precocious daughter, Rose. More interesting is his curiosity about how she came to be an independent career woman in a time of limited options for women, in a place (the Ozarks of Missouri) remote, isolated, and tradition bound.
Ingalls Wilder's daughter, the extraordinary Rose Wilder Lane (prominent in the American literary scenes in the 1920s and 1930s), had a major role in the production of her mother's novels. Indeed, the remarkable mother-daughter relationship itself makes the book well-worth reading. Laura would learn to write from her daughter; however Miller argues against the widely held belief that it was Rose Lane's sophisticated writing skills that transformed and polished her mother's novels.
Miller begins with the history of the Ingalls family and their first settlement, which was in Wisconsin along the banks of the Mississippi River. The history unfolds at a sprightly pace and paints the hardscrabble pioneer life in bright colors--the family's search for good farmland that drives them to Missouri; the physical challenges of the prairie; plagues of locusts; the fragile farm economy; and the burgeoning immigrant population. This biography will appeal to readers already hooked by the Little House series and hungry for the facts of Laura Ingalls Wilder's life independent of the myths that grew out of her fiction. --Hollis Giammatteo
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
One other note: I learned a lot of new information about facts that were left out of the Little House books or changed to make the story flow better for children. John Miller even goes so far as to call her Little House books fiction.Read more ›
The author is an expert on Laura Ingalls Wilder, and spent a huge amount of time in research for this book. He basically recounts as much as he can of Laura's life, based on written accounts of her, and on her own writings. Much of his book also deals with a dominant person in Laura's life: her daughter Rose. The book also features quite a few photos of Laura and her family.
Die-hard fans of Laura should read this book only if they are ready for more than 250 pages of history. It's not a novel, it doesn't contain a lot of color, but it is worth reading if you really want to know every detail about Laura's life.
It's also important to remember that the "Little House" books only cover Laura's life up to her marriage, and that she in fact lived less than 15 years in DeSmet. She spent the remaining 63 years of her life in Missouri. I always thought that Missouri was an odd choice of destinations, but there in fact were compelling reasons for the move, and Miller does explain them.
Some have criticized this book because they feel that it almost becomes a biography of Rose Wilder Lane about halfway through. A more careful reading gives an explanation for why this seems to be the case; Rose left massive amounts of personal archives, letters, and other documents when she died. On the other hand, Laura ("Mama Bess")left very little of this kind of information behind, and were it not for Rose's archives there would be even bigger gaps in the narrative. Miller does mention that a roomfull of possessions left behind in Laura's parents' home in DeSmet was discarded by the new owners of the house, and it's just possible that some of her letters were lost there.
If some people wish the book provided more in-depth detail about Laura's life in Missouri, then they should also wish for even more information about Almanzo. At the end of this book we know only a little more about him than we did at the end of "The First Four Years." He was apparently a man of few words, either spoken or written, so he largely remains an enigma.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I am in love with Laura Ingalls Wilder. My Father was born and raised in DeSmet, SD, where Laura's family finally settled down to live. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Just An Arizona Grammy
Very nicely written and researched! I enjoyed the third party perspective of the writings and relationships of one of my childhood favourite authors!Published 20 months ago by Cindy
The only reason I'm giving this a 2 star is because the History (non Laura) was interesting but I couldn't finish this book... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Rosa Cline
This is a copy/paste from my Goodreads.com review.
If you're looking for a good read about the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, there are better ones out there than this one. Read more
I have almost finished this book and have enjoyed it very much. Other reviewers do have a point: the writing doesn't exactly "flow," but I have enjoyed reading about the historical... Read morePublished on January 6, 2012 by czkeys
I read this and William Holtz's biography of the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, "The Ghost in the Little House," in tandem, hoping to find a bit of truth about... Read morePublished on April 30, 2011 by MarlowesMom
I wanted to know more about the woman behind the novels and so I got this book. I found it to be truly unsatisfying because it didn't offer much information about Laura herself as... Read morePublished on January 26, 2011 by cynthia katz
I'm purposely not looking at the other reviews before writing this one, although I DID look at them briefly prior to purchasing this book. Read morePublished on September 15, 2010 by hanky girl