A look at ‘The Wilder Life’

Tonight, I visited the Argus Leader Life Book Club, where we discussed “The Wilder Life,” a book which documents Chicago author Wendy McClure’s journey into the world of the widely-read “Little House on the Prairie” series.


For those of you who didn’t read the Little House on the Prairie books, the series focuses on the journeys of the Ingalls family, who lived in several Midwest states, including Iowa, Minnesota, and DeSmet, South Dakota.

At the book club tonight, some of the participants said it wasn’t what they would call a “can’t-put-down” book, and I tended to agree. Personally, I loved the book, it was funny, insightful, and educational, as it follows McClure’s journey to many of the sites featured in the LHOP books, as well as some lesser-known facts about the family and the areas where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived.

I think I appreciated the book more because I was a huge, I repeat, huge Little House on the Prairie fan.

When I was about, oh, elementary school age, my parents gave me the LHOP box set. All nine books, packaged neatly together in a little cardboad box which, on each side of the box, showed Laura and Mary sitting in the back of a covered wagon, while Jack the Bulldog trotted underneath the wheels.

To be frank, I read the crap out of them.

I loved them so much, that each time I re-read one, I’d make a little pencil mark in the back of the book. I swear, by the time I reached high school, I had at least a dozen marks in each of the nine books.

The books also made an appearance in my dreams.

I read them so often, that one time when I was in middle school, I actually sleepwalked out into the kitchen where my mom was, and started yelling, “Ma! We gotta get Jack and Mary in the wagon so Pa can get us over the river before the ice cracks!”

She started questioning me about what in the world I was talking about and I got very upset, so she told me later, and insisted that we find Mary and Jack the bulldog NOW so we could load up the wagon and make it across the river in time.

She apparently assured me that she would make sure the wagon was loaded up and everything was tip top, and gently led me back to bed and told me to rest up for our big trip across the river (so as not to wake the sleepwalker).

This book really made me want to re-read all the books again, and it made me smile thinking back to all those nights I stayed up way past my bedtime reading my LHOP books with a flashlight under the covers, so as not to wake my parents.

I’d definitely recommend it, especially for all you fellow LHOP fans like me.

If you’d like to join, the Life Book Club meets the third Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at Zandbroz Variety in downtown Sioux Falls. Siouxland Libraries also helps with discussion and selection. You can get updates on what books is being read on their Facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Argus-Leader-Life-Book-Club/130136063676132.

Next month’s Life Book Club book is “The Sisters Brothers,” by Patrick deWitt. More information on the book here.

Happy reading!