This pitch-perfect novel reimagines the life of Rose Wilder Lane, co-author of Little House on the Prairie.
Albert (Widow’s Tears, 2013, etc.) has discovered an endlessly fascinating protagonist. Lane, the libertarian and rumored lesbian, was an established, award-winning writer in her own right, but she may be best remembered today as the uncredited co-author of the Little House books written by her mother, Laura Ingalls Wilder. Albert’s well-researched novel draws from the letters and journal entries of both women to offer a fictionalized account of the years spanning 1928-1939. The Great Depression threatens not only Rose’s livelihood as a writer, but also the free-wheeling, itinerant lifestyle she so values. When she and her companion, Helen Boylston, leave their home in Albania and return to the Wilder farmstead in Missouri, the move is meant to be temporary—Mansfield, Mo., has little to offer in the way of culture, after all, and Rose frequently clashes with her headstrong and old-fashioned mother. In the aftershock of the stock market crash, however, both women lose their savings, and Rose loses the financial stability she had enjoyed as a freelance writer before the crash. When a publisher shows interest in printing the stories of Laura’s difficult frontier childhood (but Laura’s untrained writing fails to impress), the mother and daughter enter into an unlikely, often contentious collaboration to produce the now-beloved Little House books. From this strange, very specific historical relationship, Albert has written a nuanced, moving and resonant novel about fraught mother-daughter relationships, family obligation, and the ways we both inherit and reject the values of our parents. The book also offers insightful, timely commentary on what it means to be a career writer.
With all of the charm of the Little House series—and the benefit of a sophisticated, adult worldview—Albert’s novel is an absolute pleasure.