Review: A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert

Title: A Wilder Rose
Author: Susan Wittig Albert
Publisher: Persevero Press
Released: October 1, 2013
Source: publisher (NetGalley)

Synopsis (from Barnes & Noble):

In 1928, Rose Wilder Lane-world traveler, journalist, highly-paid magazine writer-returned from an Albanian sojourn to her parents’ Ozark farm. Almanzo Wilder was 71 and Laura 61, and Rose felt obligated to stay and help. Then came the Crash. Rose’s investments vanished and the magazine market dried up. That’s when Laura wrote “Pioneer Girl,” her story of growing up in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, on the Kansas prairie, and by the shores of Silver Lake.The rest is literary history. But it isn’t the history we thought we knew.

Based on the unpublished diaries of Rose Wilder Lane and other documentary evidence, A Wilder Rose tells the surprising true story of the often strained collaboration that produced the Little House books-a collaboration that Rose and her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder, concealed from their agent, editors, reviewers, and readers. Acclaimed author Susan Wittig Albert follows the clues that take us straight to the heart of this fascinating literary mystery.

Like Jennifer at The Relentless Reader, I initially had reservations about reading A Wilder Rose. I didn’t want my fond childhood memories of Little House on the Prairie shattered! After reading Jennifer’s review, I decided to go ahead and give this book a try.

I’m so glad I did! The real story isn’t as scandalous as I feared, and really, I think the mother-daughter collaboration was a wonderful thing. It did feel a bit odd, trying to reconcile the Laura Ingalls Wilder of this book with the Melissa Gilbert version in my mind. But in the end, I appreciated having a more realistic portrayal.

The book alternates perspectives, starting out with Rose Wilder Lane’s student Norma Lee inquiring about her mentor’s life. The narrative in these scenes felt a little too simple to me, almost like reading a middle-grade novel. It was fine, just not quite what I expected from a historical fiction novel geared toward adults. Then, as Rose told Norma Lee her story, the story shifts to a first person account, and those pages completely drew me in. I was thankful that Rose’s perspective made up the bulk of the book.

The author does a phenomenal job expressing Rose’s libertarian side as is – without spin – and we see clearly why Rose Wilder Lane is considered one of the “founding mothers of the American libertarianism movement.” Thanks to this novel, I’m completely inspired to go read Rose Wilder Lane’s work.

This book is a very satisfying read, and I think even those who aren’t fans of Little House (if those even exist?!) would enjoy it. 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review.