Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman Behind the Legend

John Miller, Author, William E. Foley, Editor University of Missouri Press $44.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8262-1167-5
It takes Miller one-third of this fact-clogged biography to start showing Laura Ingalls Wilder as ""the woman behind the legend,"" but when he finally does, the picture is fascinating. Wilder, whose seven semiautobiographical Little House on the Prairie books have been read by millions and inspired a television series, was a bossy wife, a penny-pincher who once protested her power company's rates by having her electricity shut off and a political right-winger. By far the most absorbing aspect of Miller's book is the story of Wilder's relationship with her only child. Rose Wilder Lane was a childless divorc e and an established writer by the time her mother began writing novels at age 63, and she edited her mother's books and got her agent to handle them. Miller draws heavily on Lane's diaries and letters, which often contain diatribes against a mother she alternately loved and resented. But while Wilder left no personal papers presenting her side, Miller seems to paint a balanced portrait. He's not so balanced elsewhere, and in an effort to contextualize his subject, he often presents reams of redundant or unnecessary political, geographical and cultural details that bog down what is otherwise a very interesting story. (May)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 05/01/1998
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