The Wilder Life
My Adventures in the Lost World of
Little House on the Prairie

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From Publishers Weekly (starred review):

Obsessed with Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House books about an 1880s pioneer family, children’s book editor and memoirist McClure (I’m Not the New Me) attempts to recapture her childhood vision of “Laura World.” Her wacky quest includes hand-grinding wheat for bread, buying an authentic churn, and traveling to sites where the Ingalls family attempted to wrest a living from the prairie. Discovering that butter she churned herself was “just butter,” McClure admits she “felt like a genius and a complete idiot at the same time.” Viewing a one-room dugout the Ingallses occupied that was “smaller than a freight elevator” prompted McClure to admit that “the actual past and the Little House world had different properties.” McClure finally tells her boyfriend, “I’m home,” after recognizing that her travels stemmed from her reaction to the recent death of her mother. Readers don’t need to be Wilder fans to enjoy this funny and thoughtful guide to a romanticized version of the American expansion west.

More reviews and praise:

The Wilder Life is a funny and poignant account about figuring out how to reconcile childhood obsessions with our adult selves. I love this book. Wendy McClure once wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder. Well, now I want to be Wendy McClure.”—Tracy Chevalier, author of Remarkable Creatures and Girl with a Pearl Earring

“Highly engaging, often hilarious…the author’s pilgrimage arrives at what feels like well-earned literary nostalgia.”The Boston Globe

“Fans of the ‘Little House’ series will eat up this book like a hot Johnny cake, and well they should, because McClure highlights that intangible something about the series that strikes a deep chord in even the most casual reader.”Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Wilder Life…has the power to charm even those who shudder at the thought of gingham, calving or salt pork. As a child reader, my tastes ran more toward Anglophilia and stories without parents, and still I devoured this memoir like Laura ‘Half-Pint’ Ingalls chowing down on Ma’s vanity cakes…The Wilder Life features as much humor as it does reminiscence and reportage. The result is at once endearing and very funny. Even a casual Ingalls admirer like myself can understand why one of McClure’s friends felt her knees buckle with awe in a Missouri museum when she saw Pa’s actual fiddle on display. The Wilder Life explores not only the uneasy interplay of fact and fiction but also those disorienting moments when the icons of childhood—places, people and things of nearly divine power — suddenly materialize in our adult lives. McClure’s touch is as light as Ma’s best biscuits, but the result still sticks to your ribs.”—Laura Miller,

“An insightful, entertaining look at our relationship with pop culture, how it changes from youth to adulthood, how it intersects with the real world, and how other people relate to the personal things we love.”The A.V. Club

“I thought no one could love Laura Ingalls Wilder as much as I do, but Wendy McClure does. The Wilder Life is a tribute to the Little House books that’s both reverent and irreverent-in a thoughtful, hilarious way. I couldn’t put it down.” —Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project

“A howlingly funny, historically thorough, and irresistibly mad trip down the rabbit hole of the Laura Ingalls/Little House obsession that has consumed an entire generation of women. I spent seven years on the prairie and this book made me want to run out and buy a butter churn! Mandatory reading for all ‘bonnetheads’ and the people who love them!”—Alison Arngrim, TV’s Nellie Oleson and New York Times bestselling author of Confessions of A Prairie Bitch

“Wendy McClure’s The Wilder Life evoked such almost palpable nostalgia that I felt like I was walking into my childhood dollhouse every time I opened the book. It is so warmly written—so funny and real—it made Little House on the Prairie come more fully to life than a million episodes of the TV show. As a person who has been obsessed with many things from my armchair, I ate up Wendy’s adventures. I absolutely loved this book.”—Julie Klam, author of You Had Me at Woof

The Wilder Life perfectly captures the wistful, poignant, goofy nature of Little House lust. It also offers some important lessons on late 19th century land rights and butter churning. Now that’s my kind of book!”—Meghan Daum, author of Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House