cover image The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by William Anderson. Harper, $26.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-06-241968-2

Laura Ingalls Wilder, born in a log cabin in Wisconsin in 1867, published eight novels based on her frontier childhood. The much-loved Little House on the Prairie series has charmed several generations, and an equally beloved TV show based on it aired from 1974 to 1983. Anderson, her biographer and the author of several other Wilder-themed books such as The Little House Guidebook, assembles letters spanning 62 years of her long, productive life, from 1894 to 1956. They mix Wilder’s common-sense advice, acute observations of Americana, and nostalgia for her childhood. Some radiate the pioneer virtues, spirited optimism, and pluck that give Wilder’s books enduring appeal. Others reflect a sharp-eyed entrepreneur intent on building her brand. A number of letters provide rich descriptions of road trips through California and the still untamed West, and in one, Wilder notes she is grateful to be driving in a car, rather than a covered wagon. Wilder was unfailingly gracious to her many fans; she wrote back to one admirer who had sent her a photograph, “You look like a person it would be pleasant to know.” Wilder’s letters display a writer who kept her head amid growing fame, remaining sweet, down-to-earth, and immensely likable until her death in 1957. (Mar.)