Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser
The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

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It’s a fascination she conveys so well in these pages. At its best, the book displays both the perils and the power of memory.
-Guardian

Synopsis

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 Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial records, Caroline Fraser—the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House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

 

About Caroline Fraser

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Caroline Fraser's first book, God's Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church, was selected as a New York Times Book Review Notable Book and a Los Angeles Times Book Review Best Book. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, and Outside magazine, among others. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
 
Published November 21, 2017 by Metropolitan Books. 629 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Literature & Fiction, Parenting & Relationships. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Prairie Fires
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Anita Sethi on Dec 31 2017

It’s a fascination she conveys so well in these pages. At its best, the book displays both the perils and the power of memory.

Read Full Review of Prairie Fires: The American D... | See more reviews from Guardian

Financial Times

Good
Reviewed by Susie Boyt on Jan 23 2018

Throughout this important and meticulous biography, Fraser allows Wilder’s thoughts and actions to speak for themselves, never indulging in unnecessary interpretation.

Read Full Review of Prairie Fires: The American D... | See more reviews from Financial Times

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