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My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie

missing imageA children's book editor from Chicago, Wendy McClure is also the author of the memoir I'm Not the New Me.

The Topic: There are several senses in which the "Little House on the Prairie" books are more than novels. First, the books' resemblance to the life of their author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, is so great that many readers forget they are technically fiction. Second, they've fostered a fan base that makes pilgrimages to the books' settings, assiduously studies the texts, and holds pageants and re-enactments This international community of devotees regularly tries to revisit a world that is part American past, part adolescent sentimentality. In The Wilder Life, Wendy McClure sets out to explore this "Laura World" of the books and their fans, as well as to understand her own place there.
Riverhead. 352 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9781594487804

Minneapolis Star Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"... it's a good bet that at some point in your life you've had a ‘Little House' moment. In her memoir ... author and children's book editor Wendy McClure turns her Little House moment into a mission. ... McClure highlights that intangible something about the series that strikes a deep chord in even the most casual reader." Meganne Fabrega

The Onion AV Club 4 of 5 Stars
"Even for those who don't know their Almanzos from their Nellies, The Wilder Life is likely to evoke a strong sense of recognition. ... McClure realizes that even Laura herself never found what her beloved books represent for millions: a home, a destination, a snug little place to belong." Donna Bowman

St. Petersburg Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"If, as a kid, you ever longed for a sunbonnet and a sod house, you'll love Wendy McClure's smart and sweetly hilarious memoir The Wilder Life." Colette Bancroft

Christian Science Monitor 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Don't worry that McClure's journey, sparked by a chance encounter with her yellow-bordered old copy of Little House In The Big Woods, is one of those ginned-up-book-proposal-in-hand faux challenges. ... Her insights and wry honesty elevate the story from gimmickry. Conversational, witty, and questioning, she manages to co-exist with her powerful subject." Rebekah Denn

Houston Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"... a funny, nostalgia-inducing memoir/travelogue/obsession chronicling the author's journeys. ... Separating the real Laura from the fictional Laura--and there are volumes of scholarly work on this topic--is the heart of the memoir." Nicki Britton

Washington Post 2 of 5 Stars
"McClure seems far more interested in herself than in Laura Ingalls Wilder, or Laura World, or any of the places she saw and people she met in the course of producing this book. ... [T]hough McClure clearly is amused to no end by what she fancies to be her witticisms, [the book] lumbers along in a forced narrative that never really engages the reader." Jonathan Yardley

Critical Summary

Critics appreciated that McClure captured the spirit of "Laura World" without making her book just another line in the vast Wilder bibliography. Enthusiastically in it but never really of it, she captures the feeling the "Little House" phenomenon evokes for so many readers. Reviewers were somewhat divided on the amount of information from her own life that McClure included in the book, with some calling it unnecessary and the Washington Post's Jonathan Yardley characterizing it as fatally distracting. They also disagreed about the scope of the book's potential audience; a few felt it is a book anyone could enjoy, but most felt it would be difficult to appreciate without prior knowledge of the Little House books.