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The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie Hardcover – April 14, 2011

3.9 out of 5 stars 127 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews



""The Wilder Life" is a tribute to the "Little House" books that's both reverent and irreverent-in a thoughtful, hilarious way. I couldn't put it down."
-Gretchen Rubin, author of "The Happiness Project"

"Mandatory reading for all "bonnetheads" - and the people who love them!"
-Alison Arngrim, TV's Nellie Oleson and "New York Times" bestselling author of "Confessions of A Prairie Bitch"

"Wendy McClure's "The Wilder Life" evoked so much of an almost palpable nostalgia that I felt like I was walking into my childhood dollhouse every time I opened the book. I absolutely loved this book."
-Julie Klam, author of "You Had Me at Woof "

""The Wilder Life" perfectly captures the wistful, poignant, goofy nature of Little House lust. It also offers some important lessons on late 19th century land rights and butter churning. Now that's my kind of book!"
-Meghan Daum, author of "Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

After her mother�s death, McClure rediscovered Laura Ingalls Wilder�s Little House books. Fascinated with the lifestyle the books evoke, she began a journey to discover Wilder and the culture and the tourism industry that have sprung up around her. McClure is a blogger, and this memoir is at its best when she recounts a project, whether it be churning butter or visiting Wilder�s homes. Equally engaging is her research into Wilder�s life, literary controversies, and the social history that allowed the books to take on a life of their own. Unfortunately, McClure also finds it necessary to recount every clever thing she and her boyfriend ever said to each other about pioneer life. She also struggles with how to describe fans who are different from her without succumbing to patronizing stereotypes. Toward the end of her journey, she connects her interest in the books to her own family situation, and readers are left with genuine affection for her. Prairie lovers will thrill to follow the journey of one of their own. --Marta Segal Block

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; First Edition edition (April 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594487804
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594487804
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #912,000 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Cathy G. Cole TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
First Line: I was born in 1867 in a log cabin in Wisconsin and maybe you were, too.

Thus begins Wendy McClure's memoir of her attempt to relive her obsession with a series of children's books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. As a child, she loved the Little House books and dreamed of showing Laura the modern world. As an adult, she begins researching online, obtaining books written about the author and her family, and making pilgrimages to many of the Little House sites. Having missed the television series starring Michael Landon as a child, she watches all the episodes and finds other films based on the much-loved books.

McClure has a witty turn of phrase, as when describing Laura's arch enemy Nellie Oleson (who was actually a composite of three people) as "some kind of blond Frankenstein assembled from assorted bitch parts," and her list of things she learned from buying a dash churn on eBay is laugh-out-loud funny. She didn't stop with learning how to churn butter; she also bought an antique coffee grinder, ground seed wheat, and made bread just like Laura and her family did in The Long Winter. Throughout it all, she had the support of her husband, Chris, and that makes him a pretty special guy.

It's not necessary to be a Little House fan to enjoy this book, which is by turns thoughtful and funny. The book has a lot to say about how we react to momentous events in our lives as well as the power of obsession. However, as an older fan who read all the Little House books in hardcover and imagined herself in Laura's world, I think The Wilder Life will have special meaning for fans. As I turned the pages of McClure's books, I found myself remembering my own Little House days and what an impact those books had on my own life.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I pre-ordered this book many months ago after reading a little promo on Jezebel and loving the idea of a grown woman making her own Little House journey. I enjoyed the book but I was left with a sense that the author didnt really do enough to make it book-worthy.

McClure writes well, she is funny and full of pop-culture references and not too reverent about what some might consider sacred Laura territory. But the writing also seems a bit disjointed, jumping around subjects and full of confusing mini-chapters that dont always break up one train of thought.

My main disappointment is that although McClure travels to most of the famous sites and has a crack at butter churning - it probably didnt warrant a book. When I first read the synopsis I imagined a modern woman trying to build a whatnot, taking a fiddle lesson, trying to sew a nine-patch or a dress, buying a Godeys Ladies Book, sticking an apple full of cloves or making pancake men. Something a little more project-y and a little less travelogue-y. I know McClure made some food but the descriptions were lacking, and all the places they visited just ended up seeming like they disappointed her - which in turn disappointed me.

I loved the idea of this book, and I enjoyed the writing.. I just wish there was more substance to it. But hey, maybe I'll write my own book and try all of those things!
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Format: Hardcover
In this new nonfiction book, Wendy McClure does a great job presenting her adventures "with" Laura Ingalls Wilder. Clever, wise, funny and insightful, her journey on the path of discovery with the Little House on the Prairie books is also an excursion of self-appreciation and understanding.

I sometimes come across unusual books that remind me of my own history. The Wilder Life is one of those special treasures. My own mother was reading the Little House series to my three sisters when she was pregnant with me. At 13, 11, and 8, my sisters were still enthralled by the novels penned by Laura Ingalls Wilder. When given a chance to help choose my name, 'Laura' was a resounding favorite. Knowing that backstory, I have always identified with Laura, and been proud of that bond. Ms. McClure takes the path I have often longed to take--an actual trip to the locales mentioned in the books and in other works by or about Laura. In her journey, she realizes some truths about her own relationships, and beliefs. The culminating discovery of peace and completion brings her to say to her boyfriend, "We're done with the Laura trips...I'm home."

McClure was caught in the Little House wave of the 1970's, when the nine-book set was re-issued. Writing about Laura Ingalls Wilder and the books, she remembers "...the uncanny sense that I'd experienced everything she had, that I had nearly drowned in the same flooded creek, endured the grasshopper plague of 1875, and lived through the Hard Winter." It was a feeling shared by many girls, but McClure's passion for Laura's life experiences and writing continued to follow her to adulthood. She likens the place she calls the "Laura World" to Narnia or Oz--a complete world, "self-contained and mystical" and yet as real to her as her own day-to-day existence.
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Format: Hardcover
In this book, Wendy McClure takes a nostalgic, funny, sentimental and irreverent look at all things Laura.

This book could have been a lot of things.

It could have been a guidebook that invited you to follow her adventures. It isn't, although I'm sure that the tourism industries in Upstate New York, Wisconsin, Kansas, and of course South Dakota (home of De Smet Walnut Grove), will appreciate the boost that McClure's thoughts about her own visits might give them.

It could have been a cynical and maudlin look back at the days of her youth and innocence, but it wasn't that either. She managed to take her youthful excitement and exuberance with her as she visits the Ingalls Wilder homesites and finds out about Laura and her daughter Rose Wilder. So those of us who grew up like she did in the 70's and 80's are able to remember that time joyfully and appreciate the references to our generation. For example, she says that she always saw Farmer Boy as a sort of spin-off on the series, and then goes on to admit that she knows that some fans will be dismayed by the comparison to Joanie Loves Chachi. If you're not between the ages of 35 and 45, that reference might go completely over your head, but I loved it.

These elements come together to make my favorite kind of memoir. I think of them as project memoirs (my favorite writer of these is AJ Jacobs, author of The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World). Yes, we get to know Wendy McClure -- her past, and perhaps what it is in her present and future that is driving this little project.
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