I will confess to you — and is my face red to do so! — that I have never read a single Little House on the Prairie book by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I did watch the television program, but frankly not religiously. Still, I like All Things Western, so when I learned about Caroline: Little House, Revisited, a new novel by Sarah Miller, I was all in.
The novel was authorized by Little House Heritage Trust, the first knock-off to earn this honor. Caroline: Little House, Revisited tells the familiar story of the Ingalls’ journey from their home in Wisconsin to the Indian territories of Kansas. But, rather than telling it from the perspective of Laura, this story is told from the perspective of Caroline — Ma, as she is known to most of us.
In this novel, we are told about the perils facing the family on their journey, and also as they made their new life in the unfamiliar Indian territory in Kansas. Caroline, it would seem, is the glue that held the family together. She is not fearless — far from it, in fact. Her new life terrifies her, but she works endlessly and uncomplainingly, to keep her family fed and clothed and safe from all kinds of dangers.
The novel provides a picture of life in the 1870s in unsettled middle America. It provides a good look at what it must have been like to move, uninvited, into what had been Indian land — both from the settlers viewpoints and the viewpoints of the Indians. The story isn’t presented as black and white, but rather, gray.
The book shows the relationship between Charles and Caroline, and, if accurate, they were truly uncharacteristically in love. It confirms the books’ and television show’s assertion that Laura was a tomboy and extremely close to her father. It demonstrates the absolute reliance upon neighbors, whether you liked them or not.
Man, it was hard work being a woman in the pioneer days of unsettled territories. While I have always looked with some envy on pioneer women, this book makes me once again realize that I would never have made it. I am no Caroline Ingalls.
I loved this book and recommend it highly.