This little work is the third and final book is a wonderful little series edited by Stephen W. Hines. Oddly enough, it is targeted and designated YA although I must say that it is a delightful read for all ages and any adult, especially Wilder fans will enjoy every word and actually learn a bit.
In this collection, the editor has taken actual interviews from people living in Laura's home town and other parts of the country, articles, past published interviews and Mrs. Wilder's own words to portray how she was perceived in her own community during her own time. How did she react to her fame? Did she make a lot of money with her books? What was, through the eyes of others, her relationship with her daughter, Rose? How was her husband Almanzo perceived and what was his relationship with Laura really like? Was this most famous author a bit quirky or eccentric? Was she happy?
The reader must remember that Laura Ingails Wilder lived in her community of Mansfield, Missouri from 1894 until her death in 1957 and that her first work Little House in the Big Woods was not published until 1932 when Laura was in her mid 60s. She died at the age of 90 well before the now famous T.V. series was even considered. It should also be noted that Mrs. Wilder's education only went as far as two semesters of high school and it must also be remembered that her daughter Rose, was a best selling author long before Laura began her own writing career. Unfortunately the work of Rose is lost in the literary mist of the past and in fact was quickly fading and all but forgotten before the Little House books hit the bookshelves.
Please note that there are quite a number of biographies out there dealing with the Wilder family. This work does not go into the tumultuous relationship between Laura and Rose and as a matter of fact sort of glosses it over. While it pays lip service to Almonzo's handicap, it does not address the problems that this cause. This after all is targeted for youth and there are certainly a plethoria of works out there discussing such matters.
In addition to finding out some wonderful things about one of my favorite authors, I was also very pleased that many of the interviews and articles included very nicely done glimpses into the hard, hard, life of the small farmer in the Ozarks during that time period (Actually, things have not changed all that much...truth be told). Of course being raised a few miles from Mansfield and now living even closer allowed me to understand perfectly the attitude of the people and the culture which surrounded Laura and her family. It was quite similar to my family and the community I grew up in.
The editor concludes this work with a delightful discussion of some of the mysteries surrounding the life of this wonderful children's write. Laura's Cave (All tales and families from the Ozarks have to have at least one cave involved). Did Laura really write these books or did Rose? Will her unpublished work ever be published? Was Laura really rich and how did she view money? Interesting speculation here and good answers, as far as it goes.
Young or old, you will find this to be a very rewarding read and I doubt that even the most ardent LIW fan will be disappointed. This is a short, quick read and well worth the time spent with it. Highly recommend.