Monday, April 18, 2011

The Wilder Life - Wendy McClure

Subtitled: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie.

When I saw The Wilder Life, I just knew I had to read it. I used to bicycle down to the Byron Library once a week and pester Miss Spicer for her next book recommendation. I had finished all of The Borrowers (I really wanted to live in their little mouse world) when she recommended Little House in the Big Woods. Well, I fell in love with this series and the whole kit and caboodle. I wanted to be Laura Ingalls. So did Wendy McClure.

McClure's parents are moving, so Wendy comes over to help with their garage sale. She comes upon her childhood copy of Little House in the Big Woods. Rereading it brings it all back...
"...I wanted to live in one room with my whole family and have a pathetic corncob doll all my own. I wanted to wear a calico sunbonnet - or rather, I wanted to not wear a calico sunbonnet, the way Laura did, letting it hang down her back by its ties. I wanted to do chores because of those books. Carry water, churn butter, make headcheese. I wanted dead rabbits brought home for supper. I wanted to go out into the backyard and just, I don't know, grab stuff off trees, or uproot things from the ground, and bring it all inside in a basket and have my parents say "My land! What a harvest!"
And so begins the exploration of all things Laura - Laura world as she comes to call it. McClure tries all the things she wanted to do - churning butter, making by pouring syrup in the snow, reproducing recipes and more. She tracks down everything ever written about the Ingalls/Wilders, in print, on the Internet and finally in person.

McClure (often with her boyfriend Chris) retraces the journeys of the Ingalls family, visits the homesteads and museums and meets others who love Laura as much as she does. (and some who are downright obsessive) It was fascinating to learn more about the 'real' Laura and the life and inspiration behind the books.

Wendy McClure is an excellent writer. Her introspective search for Laura is told with charm and much humour. I found myself laughing out loud many times. I too found myself wondering what is is that attracted us as children to the books and stayed with us as adults.
"I considered this as I stared up at the ceiling of our tent. Who knew how many times those books made me idly wish for a now other than the one I was in, that the world would somehow crack open and reveal a simpler life?"
You don't need to be a Laura fan to enjoy The Wilder Life, but you'll definitely close the last page as a Wendy McClure fan. A memoir that kept me engaged from first page to last.

You can find The Wilder Life on Facebook. And Wendy on Twitter. Or check out the Flickr photostream of The Wilder Life.

And now for confession time - I worked for 7 years at a living history museum. I loved dressing up as a 'pioneer' for work every day. And yes, I can make candles, soap, bread, quilt, stook hay and have yoked up an ox to plow a field. I loved every minute of it! And yes, I still have my bonnets.....

Goat herding circa 1996.


Angie @ By Book or By Crook said...

I loved the Borrowers!! And Little House on the Prairie was another one of my favorites, as well as the Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew... Oh I miss the days of my youth!

Anonymous said...

I love the fact that you worked at a living history museum. We used to have one here in our part of the country and it was wonderful. I'm looking forward to reading THE WILDER LIFE.

bermudaonion said...

I was a fan of the Little House books so I have a feeling I'll love this one.

Unknown said...

This book sounds wonderful and I imagine many of us can identify with the author. I remember waiting anxiously for the Little House on the Prairie TV show every week. So I was thrilled when my mother brought home the books - these books were fascinating! I love that Wendy calls it "Laura World"!

The Brunette Librarian said...

I loved this book!! :) So glad you enjoyed it too. I was a Laura Ingalls Fan and this book just cemented it. McClure faced everything head on and it was never boring.

Great thoughts!

:) I just talked about it on my blog today! :)