Book Chat

The Wilder Life book McClure“The Wilder Life” is going to be a tough book for me to review. It’s written by Wendy McClure, a woman about my age who, as an adult, journeyed to all the Laura Ingalls Wilder sites to bring full-circle the Laura addiction of her youth. Wow — I loved this premise! From there on, things got dicier for me.

The good

I loved the idea of the book, since I, too, had loved the Little House books as a child. While I wasn’t as taken with them as the author, I read the entire series, watched the TV show (although I was a bit older when it came on and was never a total fan), and read the series again in my 20s. I loved the author’s descriptions of the various Little House sites. I’ve wanted to visit them for years, but since my husband is not in the same league as her boyfriend who she traveled with (he asked her often, “Would you like to stay here longer? We can.” He also voluntarily read the books and took part in her interests. Ah, to have such a life), I’m doubting that will happen. This book helped me feel I was there, giving lots of details.

I liked the author’s style and voice. She’s funny, working in Little House references all over the place. I cracked up and totally related when she expressed her thrill over finding the recipe for the beloved vanity cakes, only to see that they called for 1 to 2 pounds of lard. She can veer into snark at times, which is fine when it’s funny and not so fine when it turns a little mean (keep reading).

The bad

I think the heart of my problem with the book came 3/4 of the way through, when the author’s growing angst reaches a peak and she realizes, I was not Laura.

No, she certainly was not. She uses profanity throughout the book, using God’s name in vain frequently. She lives with her (admittedly very nice) boyfriend and supports gay marriage (yes, she finds a way to tuck that in to a book about Laura Ingalls).

Within the first third of the book, she manages to label Pa an “opportunistic jerk” and calls Ma “a bit of a jerk” as well, owing to her dislike of Indians (who can forget Ma’s injunction that the only good Indian is a dead Indian?). Maybe, looking through our 21st century politically-correct eyes, but let’s face it: if you lived in the midst of Indians who killed your neighbors and did war dances at night while you tried to sleep, would you be motivated to go out and bless them with a random act of kindness?

On one trip, McClure and her boyfriend travel to spend the night at a farm. They hope to live like pioneers, like Laura. But they are horrified that others spending the night seem to be conservative and — gasp — religious. They talk about end times and mention “with all that’s happening,” and McClure even fears that they think Obama is “evil incarnate.” Imagine that! They fear that the religious folk will find out they’re not married, and they hurry off when one of the women brings up — horrors! — Jesus. This whole section rubbed me the wrong way, with McClure subtly making fun of these people. I found myself wondering if any of them have read the book, and what their take would be.

To her credit, McClure at least party realizes the disparity between herself and the Ingalls: “I already suspected that if the adult Laura were alive today, there’d be something of a  cultural divide between us.”

Amen, sister. To sum it up: fun idea for a book. Wrong person to write it.

If you read and loved the Little House books, I think you’ll enjoy this if you can get past the things I mentioned. If you haven’t read them, it won’t be interesting to you.


Tough Guys and Drama Queens GregstonAs the mom of 2, soon to be 3 teens, I’m reading several how-to-deal-with-teens books lately. As with many stereotypes, the “common wisdom” on teens does seem to have more than a hint of the truth.

I found “Tough Guys and Drama Queens: How Not to Get Blindsided by your Child’s Teen Years” by Mark Gregston helpful. Gregston is the founder of a Christian teen counseling center, and as such he’s well qualified to write this book. It’s full of wisdom he’s learned from real-world experience in working with teens.

There are many specifics, but it all kind of boils down to: Listen more than you talk. Be reluctant to give advice, and then only give it when asked. Be positive. Be encouraging. Worry more about building a relationship with your child than about enforcing a set of rules.

Gregston comes across as the parent most all of us wish we’d had: caring and concerned. He offers insight into why teens act in the infuriating and confusing (to us adults) ways they sometimes do. I recommend this book to any parents of teens.

Thanks to BookSneeze for the chance to review this book.


The Year We Left Home ThompsonI loved “The Year We Left Home.” It’s always lovely, after slogging through several books that don’t really grab me, to fall into one that just flows. This one did that. It’s the tale of an Iowa family, beginning at their oldest daughter’s wedding in the 1970s and continuing on until 2003. Each chapter focuses on a different family member, and several years separate each chapter. Each one is a glimpse into the family’s life and relationships, and it all just rings true.

It’s a portrait of real families and real life: the hopefulness, the disillusionment, the wishing-things-weren’t-the-way-they-were-but-they-are-so-deal-with-it. Family members met with some surprises, but throughout the years each one remained remarkably the same at heart, and nothing that happens to them seems truly surprising: the events seemed almost destined, given their personalities. Jean Thompson is an excellent writer. I know this because I often read a sentence, and then realized that I’d thought the same thing —  yet she was able to capture it in words.

Paraphrased example: You don’t stop wanting something, just because your life has made it impossible.

Sigh. Recommended.


Paws'itively DivineMy daily devotions recently have come from “Paws’itively Divine: Devotions for Dog Lovers,” by my online friend Dana Rongione. Dana has a blog called A Word Fitly Spoken, where she offers daily devotions. She is always so encouraging, so when I saw that she had a devotional book out, and one about pets at that? I knew it would be a winner, and it is.

Dana is a pet-lover, and the book centers on her two current dogs and one former pooch. If you’re a pet owner, you know how incidents with pets often remind us of the relationship we have with God. Dana has described these in a heartwarming way. Each devotion is short and includes a scripture reference. Recommended!

3 thoughts on “Book Chat

  1. I just finished reading “Zippy” last night. That is the fifth book I’ve read since June. That’s amazing for me! Thanks for being an encourager.

  2. I doubt I would have the same take on “Tough Guys and Drama Queens” that you have. I don’t feel that being “friends” with your teens is nearly as important as giving them guidance. But then, I’m not a mom.

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