cover image The Ghost in the Little House: A Life of Rose Wilder Lane

The Ghost in the Little House: A Life of Rose Wilder Lane

William V. Holtz. University of Missouri Press, $29.95 (425pp) ISBN 978-0-8262-0887-3

``Do anything you please with the damn stuff if you will fix it up,'' said Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House on the Prairie series, to her daughter Rose, who, according to Holtz's startling research, was the de facto author of her mother's books. Drawing on diaries and letters, Holtz, a professor of English at the University of Missouri, details Lane's life (1886-1968) in an engrossing study that highlights her troubled relationship with an apparently cold and manipulative mother. At 17, she fled her parents' farm in Missouri, married (and later divorced) Gillette Lane, and then traversed the globe, supporting herself as a journalist in New York, Baghdad and Albania, making friends with such writers as Floyd Dell and Dorothy Thompson. Guilt drove her back to the farm to help her parents until publication of the Little House series, under her mother's name--but heavily rewritten and edited by Rose--freed her financially. A believer in rugged individualism, Lane's treatise The Discovery of Freedom became the Bible of the Libertarian Party. Illustrations not seen by PW. (May)