This book is interesting for a few reasons. It’s a categorical account of the Wilder’s trip from De Smet, SD to Mansfield, MO, including the cost for various work tasks and the number of wagons traveling both ways down the trail. Now, I know that sounds kind of boring and a lot of people think it is. But I found it really fascinating. It’s chock full of information that historians and history nerds find fascinating about that time. As a farm wife, the cost of labor and its products were fascinating to Laura. The fact that it fascinated her, fascinated me as well. It’s also interesting reading Rose’s thoughts.
Published after Laura’s death, Rose wrote the introduction and the postscript – an eye-opening read for anyone in love with Laura, especially a young kid, to happen across. Rose is simultaneously generous and vitriolic toward her parents.
The vitriole is, of course, difficult to read. After reading eight books and reconnecting with Laura, I don’t want to read any negative thoughts about her. Also, throughout those eight books, Laura was very clear about her own shortcomings. I definitely didn’t want to read someone else’s negative thoughts about her.
Rose used her position to point out how perfect and precocious she was. There’s the photo of her as a two year old, which she clearly recalls posing for. Then she states that she was far too advanced for De Smet elementary (even as a second grader). Anyone, particularly Laura, insinuating that she wasn’t perfect or simply reminding her of the rules as any attentive parent would, was subject to her indignation.
This fact is evidenced in the events that happened when the family arrived in Mansfield. The down payment money they’d saved for months was missing. Laura and Almanzo were frantic. Laura asked Rose several times if she’d touched the money, showed it to anyone or told anyone about it. Rose was adamant that she hadn’t and so mad at the implication that as an adult she was still traumatized by the incident. It’s understandable that she’d be upset about this as a child, but to be upset enough to remember it into adulthood with such bitterness is just bizarre.
Again, I will state that this book shouldn’t be shelved as children’s lit. It’s far too dry and confusing. But as a look back at the time for an adult, it was definitely fascinating.
Well, this brings me to the last of the solely Laura-written books. I’ll wrap up next week with reviews of William Anderson’s The Little House Reader and Wendy McClure’s The Wilder Life; both of these books provided a more detailed look at Laura’s adult writing life (the former) and one woman’s journey to rediscovering her childhood love of Laura world (can you see a parallel here?).
Have you read On the Way Home? How do you feel about Rose’s bitterness about childhood slights?