The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie

wilder life cover imageThe Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie

by Wendy McClure
Memiors
Riverhead
Hardcover - 352 pages
$25.95

Wendy McClure is an unsentimental writer, but she loves the Little House On The Prairie books. No, she really loves them. She loves them so much that she bought a butter churn on eBay. And she churned butter - you know, just to see. She took off on a trip with her heroically game boyfriend (who's charming in part because he doesn't insist on making a point of how heroically game he is), and they visited historic places where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived, and museums and pageants and kitschy stores where she's still beloved. The Wilder Life is a book of stories about these adventures, and unlike a lot of similarly structured books in which writers appear to be doing unusual things just to write books about them, McClure essentially uses the opportunity to write a series of thoughtful essays about memory at different levels. There's the tiny, very specific theme of her particular childhood love of the Little House books, but as she immerses herself in those memories, it pulls back to become a book about the way all of us relate to stories we hear as children, and about the way nostalgia operates unpredictably and sometimes painfully, and ultimately even about our false cultural memories of a romantic pioneer past that only sort of happened.