Wendy McClure is on a quest to find the world of beloved Little House on the Prairie author Laura Ingalls Wilder - a fantastic realm of fiction, history, and places McClure has never been to yet somehow knows by heart. She traces the pioneer journey of the Ingalls family - looking for the Big Woods among the medium trees in Wisconsin, wading in Plum Creek, and enduring a prairie hailstorm in South Dakota. She immerses herself in all things Little House - exploring the story from fact to fiction, and from the TV shows to the annual summer pageants in Laura’s hometowns. Whether she’s churning butter in her apartment or sitting in a replica log cabin, McClure is always in pursuit of “the Laura experience.” Along the way she comes to understand how Wilder’s life and work have shaped our ideas about girlhood and the American West.
The Wilder Life is a loving, irreverent, spirited tribute to a series of books that have inspired generations of American women. It is also an incredibly funny first-person account of obsessive reading, and a story about what happens when we reconnect with our childhood touchstones - and find that our old love has only deepened.
©2011 Wendy McClure (P)2011 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
You have to be a real Little House fan to enjoy this book. What McClure appreciates is so much of the little details in the books (rather than the historical arc), such as the strawberry-and-leaf butter mold Ma uses in Little House in the Big Woods, or the baking of Long Winter bread. Luckily I am a fan, so I did enjoy this very much. This serves as an excellent introduction into the vast library of writings on Wilder and who to read. The narrator's voice is sweet, funny and she reads well.
My only criticism is that the book itself is quite insubstantial. McClure details all the Little House sites she visits and maybe because more b/c she feels obligated to than because every single one of the sites reveals something illuminating. Hardcore fan that I am, I even faltered in my listening. There is in the last chapter a revelation as to why she's so obsessed with Wilder, and while it's heartfelt, it's feels tacked on; as if her editor said, "It's a memoir! You need revelation!"
This book is the non-fiction account of one grown up little girl's obsession with the mostly fictional "Little House" series of books, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane. The author makes several pilgrimages to the shrines and museums and 'homeplaces' that have been erected at various stopping points of the Ingalls' real 19th Century nomadic lives. It looks at the difference between people who read the books and people who only know the TV series. It pokes some fun at the people who live in "Laura World" all the time and those who, like the author, just want to experience it for a weekend or several weekends. It's a book I wish I had written.
I read this book in print form and really liked it; I only bought the audio because I thought I could enjoy listening to it more than once (one of the main criteria for purchasing an audiobook). WRONG! Teri Clark Linden is simply not up to the task of narrator. She reads as if she has not seen the material before: emphasizing a random word of a sentence; not emphasizing a key word; pausing in the middle of a sentence for no reason; making up stupid voices for incidental characters in the book, etc... The content of the book is really fascinating so the mangling of the narration was distracting and sometimes infuriating.
I would not recommend this book to anyone who hasn't read and been enchanted by at least some of the "Little House" books. You need an appreciation for the spirit of Laura Ingalls Wilder, even if you don't share the author's passion for ALL things Wilder. She makes a good case for not delving too deeply into childhood obsessions, by the way. Disillusionment lurks around every corner.
The book is sweet and sad and funny and touching. It's just too bad they (publisher? author?) chose this particular narrator. She makes the book sound badly written, even though I know it is not. A shame. Get a better narrator and I'd even buy the book again!
Like Wendy McClure, I have been a longtime fan of the Little House books and had a lot of unanswered questions about the real girl behind the stories. I enjoyed having someone with a similar sensibility as mine (skeptical, a bit snarky, but also sincere) do the hard work of answering those questions for me. I had gotten as far as reading _The Ghost in the Little House_, but no further. This book helps me to better understand my own feelings about the Little House series.
Like the author, I do not feel completely comfortable with the books' other types of fans: homeschoolers, end-timers, etc. I think the narrator's at-times-too-perky voice, however, seems to feel like a bit of a mismatch for the author's wry, witty writing. I like audiobooks enough to let this slide, but I wondered if those casting had assumed this was an uncritical homage to all things Laura.
I listened to this book with my family on a cross-country road trip during which we visited one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder home sites. Like a previous reviewer, I had read the book before in print form and enjoyed it. I bought the audiobook because I thought it would make good, all-ages listening to round out the experience of visiting the Wilder farm and museum.
Wendy McClure's story of her voyage in "Laura World" is interesting, enjoyable, and often amusing. I could relate to her interest in discovering the true, lived experience behind the children's books now that she - McClure - is an adult. The character of her boyfriend also works to make the book accessible to people (like my husband) who have not read the "Little House" books. The boyfriend's portrayal as a game, wry sidekick on McClure's obsessive journey brings additional humor to the story, as well as the perspective of someone reading Wilder's work for the first time, unencumbered by the layers of memory and association that drive McClure to churn butter, pore over satellite images of the Big Woods, and travel to tiny towns all over the upper midwest in order to better know Laura and the places she once inhabited. I would recommend "The Wilder Life" - the print version - to anyone curious about the traces the real Laura Ingalls Wilder left in the modern world alongside her famous children's books.
However, I cannot recommend the audiobook. Teri Clark Linden gives the impression of being a competent actor but an inexperienced reader, or at least one who is unfamiliar with the material of this book. She does a credible midwestern accent, but her narration constantly distracts with mispronounced words, words that any native English speaker, let alone a professional narrator, should know: it's PURported, not PREported; "ingenuity" is pronounced like "ingenious," not the French "ingenue," etc. In sentences, she also frequently misplaces the emphasis on words in ways that obscure the meaning of McClure's writing. Such obvious mistakes suggest that Linden did not bother to familiarize herself with the book before she recorded it and made me wonder if audiobooks aren't edited in any way.
Possibly worst of all, to my ears, was her constant use? of that upward questioning intonation? even in sentences that weren't questions? making McClure come across like a 20-year old student, not a 40-year-old professional writer and editor, herself. All in all, a frustrating listening experience in which the flaws of the narration stood in the way of my enjoyment of the material. I am glad I based my initial impression of McClure on my own reading of her book.
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