Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder



The first comprehensive historical biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the beloved author of the Little House on the Prairie books

Millions of readers of Little House on the Prairie believe they know Laura Ingalls—the pioneer girl who survived blizzards and near-starvation on the Great Plains, and the woman who wrote the famous autobiographical books. But the true saga of her life has never been fully told. Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser—the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House series—masterfully fills in the gaps in Wilder’s biography. Revealing the grown-up story behind the most influential childhood epic of pioneer life, she also chronicles Wilder's tumultuous relationship with her journalist daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, setting the record straight regarding charges of ghostwriting that have swirled around the books.

The Little House books, for all the hardships they describe, are paeans to the pioneer spirit, portraying it as triumphant against all odds. But Wilder’s real life was harder and grittier than that, a story of relentless struggle, rootlessness, and poverty. It was only in her sixties, after losing nearly everything in the Great Depression, that she turned to children’s books, recasting her hardscrabble childhood as a celebratory vision of homesteading—and achieving fame and fortune in the process, in one of the most astonishing rags-to-riches episodes in American letters.

Spanning nearly a century of epochal change, from the Indian Wars to the Dust Bowl, Wilder’s dramatic life provides a unique perspective on American history and our national mythology of self-reliance. With fresh insights and new discoveries, Prairie Fires reveals the complex woman whose classic stories grip us to this day.

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    Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder Reviews

  • Beth Cato

    I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.When I visited Laura Ingalls Wilder's farmhouse and museum in Mansfield, Missouri, last year, it felt like a pilgrimage to me. See...

  • Cynthia

    I know I’m not the only one whose love of reading was sparked by Ingalls Wilder’s books. Prairie Fires is, of course, about Wilder and her family but along the way Fraser provides an enlightening ...

  • Laura

    My father was a young man when the Depression hit, in 1929. And although the line of work he was in, first building movie stars home, and then working for the studios building sets, did not suffer, th...

  • Jennifer

    Y'all Rose Wilder Lane was THE WORST....

  • Naberius

    This book, written by the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House books, is a thoroughly researched biography of not only Laura Ingalls Wilder, but of her daughter, Rose. Using un...

  • Robin

    Fraser has done exhaustive research into the life and times of Laura, husband Almanzo, daughter Rose, and other figures that were involved in their lives, which has resulted in the most complete and u...

  • Amy

    Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder is a fascinating read. I enjoyed every word and learned so much more about the Wilder and Ingalls families. Highly recommended! 5 plus stars...

  • Kathleen

    Wow. The amount of research by author Caroline Fraser is impressive. The final 20% of the book consists of detailed notes, many of them cite handwritten letters, journals, and manuscripts. Often the a...

  • Deanne Patterson

    Like so many of you I got my love of reading historical fiction as a child after reading the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This is an immensely researched gritty historica...

  • Rebecca

    This new book about Laura Ingalls Wilder sounds fascinating. I had no idea about this:“But on several occasions, [Rose Wilder] Lane had gone all-in for the pr...