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Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Women Behind the Legend (Missouri Biography) Hardcover – 31 May 1998

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press (31 May 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826211674
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826211675
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.3 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 900,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"[Miller] draws on Wilder's unpublished autobiography, existing letters written to her daughter and to her husband on the few occasions she traveled without him, and her fiction and 'newspaper stories, local histories, land records, ' which he mines to create an impressively detailed context for her life. . . . Miller does not try to make her any more--or less--than she was, and that is the virtue of his biography."--"Washington Post Book World" "John E. Miller's scrupulous new biography of Wilder is a valuable and absorbing book." -Ann Romines, "Great Plains Quarterly" "Miller's thorough, riveting, work illuminates a complex process of authorship, and the mother and daughter behind it." -Jane St. Anthony, "Minneapolis Star-Tribune"."..An enjoyable portrait of a fascinating personality and her time." -Jo Ellen Heil, "Ventura County Star""Shedding new light on this remarkable woman, Miller demonstrates that Wilder's entire life was a process of becoming the woman we know as the beloved children's author." -Robert H. Ferrell, "American Bookseller"""

From the Publisher

Jane St. Anthony, Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 17, 1998
"With 'Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder,' John E. Miller has made the world safe again for devotees. . . . Miller's thorough, riveting work illuminates a complex process of authorship, and the mother and daughter behind it."

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By sp on 6 Aug. 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a well written book about Laura Ingalls Wilder. It does exactly what the title says, it does describe how she became who she was. Well researched, easy to follow, the author describes the places and the times very well, you almost feel part of it. It seems the author holds no love for Rose Wilder but describes the relationship between mother and daughter very well.

Good pictures also accompany this book. All in all, a worthwhile read for Little House fans.
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By Wendophilous on 28 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a really interesting read - a little dry and time but definitely one for anyone who enjoyed the Little House books. I found it particularly interesting to learn what of the stories were real and what was either fictionalised or amended to suit the books. It was also very interesting to read about what happened in Laura's life after the stories came to an end, to learn more about her relationship with her daughter, and to realise how simple a life she led even after her fame with the books. Very enjoyable.
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8 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 13 July 1998
Format: Hardcover
A pleasant, informative biography that covers some of the same ground as the same author's Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little Town, this book will be welcomed by all Wilder fans.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 36 reviews
68 of 69 people found the following review helpful
A wealth of information for the hard core fan 8 Nov. 2001
By Jenna D. Franceski - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read with interest the reader reviews on this book before I purchased it and saw mixed opinions and many comments, but the one that stood out the most was something to the effect of "this book might be too much for the casual Laura fan, but great for those who want to dig a little deeper." I heartily agree with that and think that needs to be stressed. If you've only ever read the "Little House" books, perhaps you should start with some of the lighter books and biographies about her. If you are like me, however, and can't get enough information about the true life of Laura, this book is fantastic. Its focus is a bit shaky at first, as it breezes through the first 20 or so years of her life in first third of the book. At that point it changes focus so much that it is almost like two books in one. Here is where we meet Laura the writer and witness her long path from town columnist to published national author. Throughout this section of the book her daughter, Rose, plays a pivotal part and has her own biography of sorts within these pages. While at first I was reluctant to read about the controversy over how much Rose actually helped her mother write the books, once I got into it I was fascinated and hooked. This book is a biography, a history book, the story of a young pioneer, and a look into a complex and conflicting mother/daughter relationship. And for those out there who simply can't get enough of Laura, curl up and dive in.
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. I don't completely agree with him on that point, but I did learn a lot and wanted to know more about the actual accurate early life of Laura. Miller makes reference in this book to Laura's first attempt at novel writing; an unpublished manuscript called "Pioneer Girl." I did a little research and found that copies are available from the Herbert Hoover Library in West Branch, Iowa. It is costly, but worth it for the biggest fan. It is definetly an adult read, though, don't plan on reading this to your children as a bedtime story.
Hope this review was helpful - enjoy!
75 of 77 people found the following review helpful
A History strong on documentation 15 Jun. 2000
By yarden - Published on
Format: Hardcover
BECOMING LAURA INGALLS WILDER reads like a dissertation. Because it is an academic book, written for the history-buff crowd, it's somewhat dry. There is a great deal of information to be read here, however, and you will feel that you know "the real Laura Ingalls" after you read this book.
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.
41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Rose Wilder Lane did NOT write the "Little House Books" 16 Dec. 2002
By RogerV - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Miller pretty well refutes the contention that Rose Wilder Lane ghostwrote the "Little House" books. There is no question that she edited her mother's manuscripts, and without her connections in the publishing industry there is a good chance the books might not have been published at all. However, the books were and are Laura's.

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. What little we do know about him comes from either Laura or Roses's writings.

One thing we do learn is that Laura never lost her pioneering spirit. In 1925 she, Rose, and a good friend of Rose's drove all the way to the West Coast from Missouri. A transcontinental auto trip in 1925 was still a major adventure, and even more remarkable when undertaken by three women. An account of this adventure surely would have made for good reading, but apparently neither Laura nor Rose thought of it.

This has been something of a rambling review, so I will conclude that Miller did very good work, and that any true fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder or her daughter would do well to read it.
60 of 67 people found the following review helpful
A well-researched book on one of our greatest writers 6 Dec. 1999
By KC - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I just re-read this book for the third time...unlike some reviewers, I am interested in what was going on culturally and otherwise in De Smet, Mansfield, etc. This book sheds more light on Laura's life after moving to Missouri than any other I have read thus far. I also enjoyed learning more about Almanzo and Laura's marriage. Along with "I Remember Laura" and "A Little House Sampler" one of my favorite LIW reads (Other than her actual books, of course!)
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Reads like an academic book but fascinating 14 Mar. 2005
By M - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I would expect that the well known author Rose did help her mother with the editing of the Little House books.Because Laura Ingalls Wilder left very little written material behind of a personal nature, we do not get to know her as well as her daughter Rose. Rose wrote many letters to people complaining of her Mother but we do not see Laura's side of this relationship. There usually are two sides to every story. We also know almost nothing about Almanzo. Except for the some what humorous account of his driving lesson from his daughter. Rose seems to be suffering from some sort of depression which worsens when she goes back to the farm according to her letters. Rose even suspects she has manic depression. She may well have. There was no treatment for it back then and very few psychiatrists at all. I also suspect that Rose hated living on the farm with her parents and this caused the depression. She was being the good daughter. By helping Laura with the Little House books she insured that her parents would live well in their old age. By listening to her Mother's stories, she would be inspired to write pioneer stories of her own. The book is quite informative. Rose gets a letter from her Aunt Carrie requesting any garments that she might be going to give away. This gives you a hint into the plight of Carrie as she grows older. None of the books I have seen address exactly what happened to Mary in the 4 years between her mothers's death and her own. We know Mary was visiting Carrie when she suffered her fatal stroke. However of all the books I have read on Laura and her family, I feel this book gave me the most information. It is well researched and well worth reading. It even mentions a few place Laura visited like Universal studios in Hollywood, California which were not mentioned in any other biographies I read. I would recommend this book to any fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder or Rose Wilder Lane. It was most informative.
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