Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder Review

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

One of The New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of the Year

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 Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser—the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House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.

Title:Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

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    Some Testimonial About This Book:

  • Julie

    Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser is a 2017 Metropolitan Books publication.‘All that I have told is true, but it is not the whole truth’This is an incre...

  • Jennifer

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

  • Matt

    “If [Laura Ingalls] Wilder’s life was triumphant…it was a different kind of triumph than we are accustomed to recognizing. She wrote no laws, led no one into battle, waged no campaigns. If we li...

  • 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...

  • Diane

    "Prairie Fires" is one of my favorite biographies I read in 2017. It's about the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, but there is so much social history here that it's also the story of the American plains....

  • 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

    Wow, this just won a Pulitzer Prize for best biography or autobiography. Even though I gave it only four stars, it really is an amazing read, and opens your eyes.----My father was a young man when the...

  • Chris

    Very close to five stars for me. (And this is coming from someone who never read a single Laura Ingalls Wilder book or saw a single episode of "Little House on the Prairie.")...

  • Louise

    This biography is thorough, interpretive and page turning. It digests enormous research on the Ignalls-Wilder family and the history of and US policy regarding the areas in which they traveled. It sho...

  • Anna H

    Caroline Fraser writes as effectively as David McCullough or Ron Chernow as a biographer in her ability to tell a great story and get the subjects she's describing down to their complicated personalit...