I can still remember when my mom and I brought home the Little House on the Prairie books and we would both gobble them up. I loved them and have revisited them many times as I grew into an adult. Of course in the later years I sat glued to the television as I watched Little House on the Prairie. To this day I still watch the reruns any chance I get. So of course when a chance to read a novel about the ‘behind the scenes’ relationship of Rose Wilder Lane and her mother Laura Ingalls Wilder came up I jumped at the chance to learn more about them. A Wilder Rose by Susan Witting Albert is an account of the often tumultuous relationship between mother and daughter.
Rose is, by all accounts, very successful. Before the stock market crash of 1929 she enjoyed a carefree lifestyle with her friends. After though, with the Great Depression, she goes back to her parents farm in the Ozark’s. Her father is 71 and her mother 61 and she feels obligated to stay and help them out. It is during this time that Laura begins writing the Little House books and when Rose reads through the first one she realizes, being an accomplished writer herself, that the book as her mother has written it will never be accepted by a publisher. It is then that she starts the process of editing and rewriting much of her mother’s work. However this caused a lot of strain on the relationship as Laura wanted her books to be true and not fiction as her daughter wanted to make them in her opinion. After one book is rejected though Laura realizes that she needs Rose’s help.
Rose though is very resentful of the time she has to spend editing her mother’s work. She’s conflicted because she wants to work on her own material and yet wants her mother’s books to be successful thereby securing both of her parent’s futures despite the Depression. As time wears on and the Depression takes it toll Rose becomes more and more depressed and feeling trapped by life on the farm. She longs to return to her carefree lifestyle and yet still feels guilty about leaving her parents. The relationship continues on in this way for the several books that are written in the Little House series.
This novel is told through the eyes of Rose and the author used letters and diaries from both women to build her story. The Laura we learn about here is very different from the one we met in the Little House books and television show and at first it really bothered me to have that image shattered. At the same time though I thought about the often complicated relationships between mothers and daughters and it was easier to see how this could be true – that Laura could be manipulative in keeping Rose on the farm. Has it ruined my love of the books or the television show – absolutely not. Public persona’s are one thing and the real people behind it all are quite another. There is also the controversy that only Laura’s name is listed as author of the books and yet Rose put so much into them and this had been hidden from agents, publishers and readers. Again it doesn’t bother me. The relationship the women had and the reasons they chose to do things this way doesn’t lessen the enjoyment these books have brought millions.
All in all I enjoyed the book especially from a historical point of view and also being able to learn more about who both Rose and Laura were. I would have enjoyed more of a personal side to the book as I had expected more about Rose growing up on the farm and the relationship with her mother. For me it focused a bit too much on Rose’s political views, relationships, etc. but that in no way takes away from what a well written novel it is. I think those that loved the Little House books would be interested in reading about the creative process and publishing journey these books took.
A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert is on tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours so be sure and check out the other tour stops for more thoughts on the book. You can connect with Susan on her website as well as visit A Wilder Rose website. You can purchase your own copy of A Wilder Rose at Amazon and Amazon Canada.
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher. No compensation was received for this review and all opinions are my own.