A Prairie Girl’s Faith, The Spiritual Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder: Review

A Prairie Girl's Faith, The Spiritual Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder

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.

8 thoughts on “A Prairie Girl’s Faith, The Spiritual Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder: Review

  1. That’s sad that this book did not live up to your expectations. No doubt the author will make a considerable sum of money on it anyway due to the title. I also am a big fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I occasionally watch a show from the old “Little House on the Prairie” series on TV. There may never be anything more to learn about Laura than what you already know. Thanks for the review!

  2. I was surprised when I first read the title of this book. The thought occurred to me that I’d never heard much about them having faith. After reading your review, the thought occurs to me that I’ve never heard much about them having faith. (Yes, I meant that to be redundant.) I’m sorry the book doesn’t live up to the expectations implied in the title, and I’m also sorry that the Ingalls family apparently didn’t have much faith or didn’t choose to share it.

  3. Ended too soon. Reminds me of the devotional I reviewed a while back on Louisa May Alcott and how they used a translation of the Bible not in synch with HER time and ignored the fact that she was a Unitarian/Transcendentalist!!! And it was written for Catholics!

  4. My sister is reading another new book about Laura called “Prairie Fire.” She says there is a lot of good research in it. When my parents visited Mansfield, Missouri in the 1970s, they brought me back a bookmark of Laura’s favorite Bible verses. I believe I still have it, and it reveals a lot about her faith.

  5. Some years back I read and reviewed a book edited by that same author called Saving Graces: the Inspirational Writings of Laura Ingalls Wilder. In fact, when I saw the title and author of the book you review here, I thought perhaps it was a new release of this one, but it doesn’t sound like it. Saving Graces is made up of Laura’s newspaper or magazine columns which she wrote extensively and regularly before writing the Little House books. Hines had put all – or at least most of the columns in another book, Little House on the Ozarks. Then I felt like he capitalized on them because he reprinted all the ones having to do with faith in Saving Graces and some of the other columns into books in other categories, like one with advice to girls.

    I had gotten Saving Graces for reasons you mention – the Ingalls’ family seemed to have a general God-fearing faith like most people seemed to have at that time, but I wasn’t sure if it was real and personal or just the culture of the day. There wasn’t as much information as I would have liked in the book, but it did shed a little light. My review is here: https://barbarah.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/book-review-saving-graces-the-inspirational-writings-of-laura-ingalls-wilder/

  6. I love your excitement when you learned this book was out there and how you read it expectantly but found it fell short of what you hoped to learn. You are honest and may prevent others from purchasing this book. Thanks for reviewing it quite well.

  7. I enjoyed your review and sorry you found the book lacking what you were looking for. The title is misleading, that’s for sure.

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing your thoughts.