Friday, August 19, 2011

Chasing the wilder life

The Wilder Life is a book by Wendy McClure. It was suggested to me and I found it at the library on CD and listened to it on my commute.

She is a woman who is obsessed with Little House on the Prairie...Laura Ingalls Wilder to be more specific. As a child, she dreamed of Laura coming to her time and she could show her around and reassure her about all those things that would be strange and scary to a farm girl who didn't see anything like an escalator, or going fast in a car. To be honest, I've never read all the Little House books. I do really enjoy them and learn things from them...but I just haven't gotten around to reading them all yet. These books are largely based on her life but are fiction none the less. Her obsession is what attracted me to this book. I sometimes feel alone in my bizarre obsession to learn to live the way people used to. Like for her, it is consuming sometimes. This was someone I felt a connection to for that reason alone and I didn't even know her yet.

As she grows older, she forgets about the books and Laura until her mom, who has been diagnosed with cancer is having a yard sale so they can move to their dream house in Arizona or New Mexico. In amongst the other things, she finds her old copy of "Little House in the Big Woods". She begins reading the books again and her obsession is rekindled. This time around, she learns that there are actual home sites around the Midwest where the original houses were and were rebuilt according to the descriptions that Laura gives. But it's in the middle of the winter so she can't visit them. While waiting to go visit the home sites, she gets a copy of the Little House cookbook and makes some of the foods from it. (By the way, that's a great cookbook filled with history. It's not written by Laura.) She tracks down an old butter churn so she can experience making butter and finds it tastes just the same as store bought butter. She tracks down an antique hand cranked coffee grinder to grind wheat to make the bread they make in "The Long Winter". She's not as impressed. Her favorite food experiment from the book was apples and onions. I have to agree there! It sounds strange but you cannot even imagine how wonderful they are together!! She really had my attention in this experimental phase. I was really into the book. But then the next phase started.

She started visiting the home sites in February when the snow was still on the ground. She had an expectation about them. Those expectations were never quite met. As you can imagine, it would be hard to have a prairie homesteading experience when surrounded by hundreds of other people. This part of the book was depressing for me. I often wonder if it is possible to recreate that kind of life today...and all her experiences seemed to shout, "NO, IT"S NOT POSSIBLE!"

I was confused by the point of the book...she's obsessed with Laura...but what's the point? Where is this book leading? I was really wondering that when it got to the depressing part. Did I really have to finish it? Was the end result worth it? It made me think about my point, my reason for my obsession. To be honest, I have no idea how to put it into words. It makes me happy to learn these skills, to know I could feed my family at least something if I ever had to for any reason. But that's the best I can articulate it, and that doesn't do it justice. If I couldn't do any better, how could I expect her to? I continued listening to the book to the end.

Eventually, she had visited all the main home sites and read as many books about Laura as she could get ahold of. One of the neat things in the book was all the info I was getting on Laura...the true stuff, not the embellished or rose colored view from her books or the all together false stories from the show. I liked that. She had decided that she had seen enough, that she didn't need to continue. And so her obsession ended. Her friend asked her if maybe she was searching for something. She decided that she must have been searching for herself, to be able to be herself again after the death of her mom. And she had found that ability again.

Turns out we really didn't have as much in common as I thought. We had a similar interest but for completely different reasons and I couldn't understand her reasoning and her depressed nature in the second half of the book really brought me down. Had I been reading this book, I probably wouldn't have have made it through the whole book but since I was listening to it on my commute, I didn't feel like it was any work to continue with it. So, in a nutshell, I have very mixed feelings about this book. I won't be listening to it again...but it did make me think. Knowing I can't recreate that lifestyle (not to the full extent, not that I didn't really already know that), I will still continue with what I am trying to do because it makes me happy. Happy was something that seemed to be missing from the second half of the book from my perspective. That's sad.


Heather and Thomas Mann said...

Sorry you didn't enjoy the book as much as you thought you would. I can see why you like to develop these skills. That is what they are.... SKILLS. and not very many people have them anymore. I think it is cool that you can learn to do so many things. and if it makes you happy, why not?

Andrea said...

That was interesting! I bookmarked the cookbook at my amazon list. I read my youngest daughter all the little house on the prairie books. They were quite elementary, and simple, but I enjoyed seeing how they lived and ate so simple. Especially when the winters were harsh, and their crops were destroyed. It shows we don't need alot of variety to eat. Once the crows ate all their corn, so they decided to shoot the crows and make crow pie! Thanks for that book review. love,andrea

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