Because my books, especially Taming the Twisted and its sequel were heavily influenced by Laura Ingalls Wilder (LIW), I ordered The Annotated Biography of Pioneer Girl in December 2014, but because of a sellout, I didn’t receive it until into the second half of March 2015. I was surprised by its volume because I hadn’t looked at the page count; I’m such a huge LIW fan, I knew I wanted it regardless.
Pioneer Girl is like a textbook on LIW and the Little House books as well as a treatise on how LIW became a writer and the Little House books were written. The main part of Pioneer Girl consists of the original autobiography LIW wrote upon which the Little House books were eventually based. It also includes parts only intended for Rose Wilder Lane, her daughter who was editing the manuscript, and notes about two revisions it went through with different potential publishers.
This book is as much of a historical text as it is about LIW. After nearly every other sentence, the reader is directed to the annotations which provide more information about the people, places, items, and events mentioned in the main text. I’ve heard some people have referred to the book as boring; however, if you love LIW or are fascinated by the pioneer times in United States history, you will absolutely love it as I did. It is the most comprehensive account of LIW that I’ve seen.
As an author, I did wonder if LIW was so skilled that she made the deliberate choices Pioneer Girl’s editors’ analyzed in the annotations or if she made those authorial choices by intuition so that the intensive studies conclude things that LIW didn’t consciously make. LIW didn’t have an MFA or any formal novel writing training; she just knew how she wanted the stories to read and what sounded good to her ears. I believe, in general, authors make more intuitive than conscious choices when writing, and it is simply readers’ fascination with them that makes them more lordly than they are. At least that’s what I like to believe. It gives me hope.
This book was a little different in my compulsive reading motivation. I was not so much compelled to keep turning pages by any twists, turns, suspense, or mystery, but because of my passion for this era of time and my love for LIW. So, on a can’t-put-it-down-scale of one for I couldn’t even finish it to ten for I was up until the wee morning hours, I give it a nine.
A publication of the Pioneer Girl Project. Nancy Tystad Koupal, Director; Rodger Hartley, Associate Editor; Jeanne Kilen Ode, Associate Editor.