A Prairie Girl’s Faith, The Spiritual Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder comes courtesy of Blogging for Books. Thanks for a review copy!
A Prairie Girl’s Faith, The Spiritual Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder
I am a big Laura Ingalls Wilder fan. I’ve read all of her books, and many more about her. So when I saw a new book exploring her spiritual beliefs, I was really excited. I didn’t know much about the Ingalls family’s Christianity, although of course I remembered the Little House stories about going to church, Reverend Alden, and of course the hymns Pa played on his fiddle. Sadly, this book was pretty much a bust for me. Turns out that there really isn’t much more than that known about Laura’s faith.
The author, Stephen Hines, is a Laura fan also. As I read this book, several times the thought came to me that Hines basically seems like a person who would enjoy sitting down and talking about Laura and her family. I do get that; she’s fascinating. This book’s manuscript was all over the place though, from 30+ pages of pioneer recipes to recaps of Laura’s life to recommendations for reading (“the best account of Laura, Almanzo, and Rose’s trip to Mansfield, Missouri, is recorded in Laura’s book ‘On the Way Home.'”) There are long quotes from other books, notably the recent “Pioneer Girl.”
Many of the observations here struck me as very basic for anyone who knows much about the Ingalls family: “Pa really was the wanderer; it was Ma who always wanted to settle down.”
The Faith of Laura Ingalls Wilder
Unfortunately though, there really isn’t much insight here into Laura’s faith. Beyond the basics I mentioned earlier that were in the Little House books, the author here posits that “I suspect that (Laura and Almanzo) were not able to reconnect with church and church friends until they moved back to De Smet after their fruitless year living in the South.” I suppose I should have realized that if I hadn’t read more about Laura’s faith in my reading so far, there probably wasn’t much more to be known. But I had my hopes raised — and I’m also wondering why this book was even published with such an unfulfilled premise?
Author Hines adds in some of his own memories and opinions here and there: “It is hard to know how much damage is done to the religion of Jesus … by those whose path to holiness is achieved by denying every pleasure.”
In the end, this book probably comes closest to a thesis in chapter 7, when the author describes Laura’s sense of privacy:
The reality is that Laura Ingalls Wilder was not a person who thought it necessary or appropriate to reveal her private thoughts on topics or people to the outside world. She certainly extended this attitude to her spirituality, which she definitely considered one of the most private of matters … hers was a quiet-voiced religion.
So, although you may enjoy A Prairie Girl’s Faith, The Spiritual Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder as a rehash of information about Laura and her family, I can’t really recommend it as it’s presented. Have you read a good book about Laura’s Christianity? If so, I’d love to hear about it.