A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert

January 10, 2014 Whitney Review 2 Comments

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig AlbertA Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert
Published by Persevero Press on August 28, 2013
Genres: General Fiction
Source: Netgalley

In 1928, Rose Wilder Lane—world traveler, journalist, much-published magazine writer—returned from an Albanian sojourn to her parents’ Ozark farm. Almanzo Wilder was 71, Laura 61, and Rose felt obligated to stay and help. To make life easier, she built them a new home, while she and Helen Boylston transformed the farmhouse into a rural writing retreat and filled it with visiting New Yorkers. Rose sold magazine stories to pay the bills for both households, and despite the subterranean tension between mother and daughter, life seemed good.

Then came the Crash. Rose’s money vanished, the magazine market dried up, and the Depression darkened the nation. That’s when Laura wrote her autobiography, “Pioneer Girl,” the story of growing up in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, on the Kansas prairie, and by the shores of Silver Lake. The rest—the eight remarkable books that followed—is literary history.

But it isn’t the history we thought we knew. For the surprising truth is that Laura’s stories were publishable only with Rose’s expert rewriting. Based on Rose’s unpublished diaries and Laura’s letters, A Wilder Rose tells the true story of the decade-long, intensive, and often troubled collaboration that produced the Little House books—the collaboration that Rose and Laura deliberately hid from their agent, editors, reviewers, and readers.

Why did the two women conceal their writing partnership? What made them commit what amounts to one of the longest-running deceptions in American literature? And what happened in those years to change Rose from a left-leaning liberal to a passionate Libertarian?

In this impeccably researched novel and with a deep insight into the book-writing business gained from her own experience as an author and coauthor, Susan Wittig Albert follows the clues that take us straight to the heart of this fascinating literary mystery.

I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series growing up.  Twenty years later, I still set aside time for Hallmark’s Little House on the Prairie Marathons and am just as enraptured by her books as I was at age eight. It recently came out the Laura’s daughter Rose may have been the steamroller behind the writing.  Between my nostalgic love and curiosity by this new snippet of information the novel, A Wilder Rose grabbed my interest.

During a rewrite of By the Shores of Silver Lake Rose takes the time to reminisce with a young aspiring author, making the bones of this storytelling.  As informative as these break-ins were I think I preferred the flashbacks, Rose’s protegé annoyed me and felt it took some meat away from the bones.  As for Rose herself, she came off as a whiny kid. maybe my childhood self was siding with Laura but Rose got on my nerves and had to put down this book numerous times.

Rose’s story got repetitive, she lives at Rocky Ridge until she feels stifled and must purge herself of Mansfield.  After her leave, she complains of the burden editing the Little House books is and prohibits her from working on her own material.  Eventually she ends up back at Rocky Ridge and the cycle continues.  It became tedious.

While I found Susan Wittig Albert’s writing to be agreeable the fan girl in me was disappointed.  Laura came off as petty and was described by Rose the way a sixteen year would after being grounded.  I did think the concept was a good one and does make me want to read a biography or even some of Rose Wilder Lane’s original work but as for A Wilder Rose, I think it could have been better executed.



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