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Granny Reviews: Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls WilderPrairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser
My rating: 5 of 5 stars 
(click above or on book image to go to Amazon.ca)


This is a fat, academic-standard biography by Caroline Fraser about one of my favorite childhood writers, Laura Ingalls Wilder. When I was in third grade the teacher, Mrs. Kathleen Turtle, read a chapter out of one of Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books after lunch each day. I likely checked the books out of the library since I do not recall owning any of her books. But she definitely left an impression.

I recall sitting in my desk and relaxing, just letting my mind follow the story set on the prairie in the USA, like our prairies in Canada, to which, as a Saskatchewan rural farmgirl, I could relate. I day-dreamed about my maternal grandmother as a child because she had actually been born in North Dakota, coming up to Saskatchewan "in the Early Days" with her parents and eight of her siblings. You can read more about her in my semi-fictionalized story -> tinyurl.com/my-little-grandma

"Prairie Fires" looks at the memories of Laura Ingalls from her childhood through her life. Fraser does a wonderful job of providing the reader with a historical context: political, cultural and geographic. The book starts with a dramatic re-telling of the collision between the 'settlers' with their free homesteads and the First Nations peoples who occupied the land in the region back into times unrecorded. The book is full of accounts of wicked weather and crop failures, chronic indebtedness of Laura's family and her own husband and her, and the "building" of the Heartland
by the pioneers.

We move through the story of Laura and with the help of all the author's research, have a pretty clear picture of the struggles to survive, the small joys, and the difficulties in avoiding a pretty steady stream of woes and misfortunes. Wilder lived through the Civil War, and World Wars I and II. Because of her only child, Rose, we get a look at Europe and New York during and between the Wars.

More than any of any other feature in this book, we get to see how Laura Ingalls Wilder became a famous children's book writer, and have a pretty thorough peak into the relationship she had with her daughter, Rose, also a writer.

Much of Laura's adult life appears to be looking sadly back on the loss of her childhood family closeness, particularly her admiration for her father, Charles. (At first it was difficult for me NOT to transpose Michael Landon's LittleJoe face on descriptions of her father, although after I saw enough of family pictures I began to imagine him more as he was described or looked in those old photos-- tall with twinkly blue eyes and a lot of beard and playing a violin.) Laura herself seems to have been a pretty "typical" farm woman of the time-- Conservative politically, self-sufficient, a little brittle but kind and polite and grateful. Both she and Rose subscribed to the early Libertarian belief system developed most familiarly by Ayn Rand, who was a contemporary and friend with Rose. If they lived today they may well have been anti-vaxxers in the truck convoy, or, maybe, Trumpsters. Okay, I won't go there because Laura really is a very sweet character and does demonstrates dedication to her craft, her family, her community and pleasure in the children and librarians who value the messages in her books. She is a decent person.

The book has several plot snags, much as their life did. But a happy ending.

The author, Caroline Fraser, won the following awards and honors for this book (published in 2017)

Interview with the author about the book:

Order a copy of this book in paperback from Amazon HERE.(U.S)

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