A Wilder Rose

A Wilder Rose - Susan Wittig Albert
Read from August 14 to 15, 2013 — I own a copy

*I received a digital ARC of this via NetGalley*

Susan Wittig Albert undertook a brave task when she decided to write about Rose Wilder Lane, and her role in the creation/editing of the famous Little House books with her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder. After all, who wants to mess with a modern-day legend, that of the Pioneer Girl who became famous for her "memoirs"? Even so, Susan's sympathetic treatment of the beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder lessens the sting that might otherwise have spoiled the book for those determined to hang onto the idealization. The book is written from Rose's point of view and in Rose's very unique voice.

I should probably disclose here that Susan is one of my favorite authors, and her China Bayles series one of my must-reads. But even so, this historical novelization is both masterfully written, and fascinating. This has been "can't put it down" reading for me. I find myself looking up and being relieved that we're not in the middle of a dust storm.

And that last sentence brings me to what I was feeling in the most gripping point of this book, where Susan (in Rose's voice) is describing the Dust Bowl days in Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma. I'm a native Texan. I grew up in the Texas Panhandle. I've lived through dust storms (though not as bad as what they had in the 1930's.) But the descriptions in A Wilder Rose bring the Dust Bowl days to grim life, and vividly remind me of how tough the Depression really was. My mother was born in 1932 in the Texas Panhandle, and though she always made light of her childhood, I know it could not have been an easy life, as a member of a pioneer family in the largely (at that time) unsettled Texas Panhandle.

Startlingly, there are a LOT of parallels in Rose's description of the angriness of people about the state of the country then, and the angriness of people about the state of our country now. I found myself not agreeing with Rose's politics, but I had to admire her passionate stance.

Both Rose and her mother came alive for me in this book,and I was sorry to read the ending. When I get my print copy of this, it will go on my "classics" shelf, next to my leather-bound copy of the first four "Little House" books. I believe that's where it belongs.