Almost every woman I know cut her reading teeth on the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I have very fond memories of the series myself, and I think it helped shaped not only my enjoyment of reading, but that of history as well. While some (maybe a lot) of our values have changed in the years since those books came out, I know a lot of people still enjoy them and share them with their kids.
Through the original series, we've seen what life was like for a child on the American frontier in the late 1800s. And other books have shown what it was like for men. But what was life like for the mothers and wives? Sarah Miller attempts to answer that in Caroline: Little House Revisited.
I had some doubts when I picked up this book. I WANTED it to be good, but Miller had a daunting task before her. Not only did she have to write a good book, but she had to write a book about events already covered in another book and make it engaging for that same audience. Plus, people have strong opinions and feelings about their dear Ingalls family. I can imagine Miller's anxiety, perhaps, about messing something up that is such a part of American culture at this point. Miller makes a wise decision by following some events historically, rather than how Laura Ingalls Wilder portrayed them. This allows for a reader who is very familiar with the other books to see things in a fresh way, and it really does seem like the difference between a mother's view of things versus a child's view. Things that just seemed to happen in Little House on the Prairie take on a deeper meaning when we experience them through Caroline's eyes. I think Miller did an excellent job portraying Caroline. We see how close danger really was, we see the truth behind some of the happenings in the children's books.
One frustration while reading this book, and this is more my perception of things rather than an issue with Miller's writing, was that we can see how different Caroline's life and role as a woman was then from what it could be now. She goes along with a lot of stuff I would have objected to. She accepts her husband's flighty ways that may have put their whole family in danger. And while it's easy for me, a woman in the twenty-first century, to say, "Speak up for yourself!" I know that she didn't have a whole lot of choice, looking at her situation. At the same time, Miller shows Caroline and Charles's relationship as a loving one, and while I wanted to smack Charles upside the head now and then, if that's what Caroline wanted, then all the power to her. All I know is that I have a new perspective, being a parent myself, and seeing the world through Caroline's eyes, and if someone were to offer me a trip with little kids and a well-meaning but somewhat flighty husband to replicate Little House on the Prairie....well, that would be a NOPE. Someone wouldn't finish that trip alive.
All in all, Caroline was a good book that existing fans of Little House on the Prairie and folks new to that world would enjoy.
In this novel authorized by Little House Heritage Trust, Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship, and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction, a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient, and loving pioneer woman as never before--Caroline Ingalls, "Ma" in Laura Ingalls Wilder's beloved Little House books.
In the frigid days of February, 1870, Caroline Ingalls and her family leave the familiar comforts of the Big Woods of Wisconsin and the warm bosom of her family, for a new life in Kansas Indian Territory. Packing what they can carry in their wagon, Caroline, her husband Charles, and their little girls, Mary and Laura, head west to settle in a beautiful, unpredictable land full of promise and peril.
The pioneer life is a hard one, especially for a pregnant woman with no friends or kin to turn to for comfort or help. The burden of work must be shouldered alone, sickness tended without the aid of doctors, and babies birthed without the accustomed hands of mothers or sisters. But Caroline's new world is also full of tender joys. In adapting to this strange new place and transforming a rough log house built by Charles' hands into a home, Caroline must draw on untapped wells of strength she does not know she possesses.
For more than eighty years, generations of readers have been enchanted by the adventures of the American frontier's most famous child, Laura Ingalls Wilder, in the Little House books. Now, that familiar story is retold in this captivating tale of family, fidelity, hardship, love, and survival that vividly reimagines our past.
Melanie R. Meadors is the author of fantasy stories where heroes don't always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion. Her fiction has appeared in Circle Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, and in the anthology Champions of Aetaltis. She studied astronomy and physics at Northern Arizona University and has published some non-fiction in the field of astronomy and library sciences. She's the co-editor of the anthology MECH: Age of Steel and editor of Hath No Fury, and she is a blogger and general b*tch monkey at The Once and Future Podcast.