Prairie Fires
March 7, 2024 12:31 PM - Subscribe

Rendering this biography as effective at racking nerves as it is at provoking thought, the story of Wilder’s emergence as a major sculptor of American identity pushes far past the usual boundaries of probability and plausibility. For anyone who has drifted into thinking of Wilder’s “Little House” books as relics of a distant and irrelevant past, reading “Prairie Fires” will provide a lasting cure. Just as effectively, for readers with a pre-existing condition of enthusiasm for western American history and literature, this book will refresh and revitalize interpretations that may be ready for some rattling.

Meanwhile, “Little House” devotees will appreciate the extraordinary care and energy Fraser brings to uncovering the details of a life that has been expertly veiled by myth. Perhaps most valuable, “Prairie Fires” demonstrates a style of exploration and deliberation that offers a welcome point of orientation for all Americans dismayed by the embattled state of truth in these days of polarization.
Text from the NY Times review.
posted by PussKillian (6 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am something of a "Bonnethead" and I really enjoyed this book as a complement to the parts of the series I love and an antidote to the most problematic bits.
posted by chaiminda at 11:31 AM on March 8

I reread this in the wake of listening to the podcast Wilder, which is interesting but didn't tell me much I hadn't already learned from reading the book. It's just such a well-written book that hits all the big issues, but with a relatively light hand and all the citations you could want so you can go dig more if you feel you need to. I don't live all that far from the Rocky Ridge site and am contemplating a visit now.
posted by PussKillian at 11:48 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]

I'm a LIW/RWL buff. This book was fine, and it had some excellent context to help us understand their lives better, such as the Minnesota massacre.

But "Ghost in the Little House" was too anti-Laura; this book is way too anti-Rose. How about something in between? Some of her little digs were really uncalled for.
posted by Melismata at 2:57 PM on March 15

I would also consider myself a LIW buff, and I really loved this book. I didn’t read it as being anti-Laura or Rose, but just realistic. Rose, in particular, was a problematic person. I really appreciated the deep historical context that was given in this book, and all of the evidence used, especially from Rose and Laura’s letters. I think I’ve read all of the biographies of LIW, this one is my favorite by far.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 6:34 AM on March 21

I was curious what was anti-Rose about this book--I haven't read any other biographies of either of them. The fact that she's one of the founders of the libertarian movement does not speak particularly well of her.
posted by chaiminda at 5:06 PM on March 23

In this book she comes across as smart, driven, and capable of good writing but always prone to taking shortcuts and adding in all the film-flam that she thought people wanted even if it meant burning bridges behind her. She and Laura both could have used therapy, if therapy is capable of overcoming the trauma of extreme poverty and instability.
posted by PussKillian at 7:16 PM on March 23 [1 favorite]

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