Monday, August 1, 2011

The First Four Years - Laura Ingalls Wilder

Summary:  Laura and Manly Wilder begin married life on their small prairie homestead with high hopes.  The beautiful prairie world seems like paradise: there are wildflowers in the spring, wild geese in autumn, pony rides, and warm times together.  But each year brings unforeseen disasters as well--storms destroy the crops; there is sickness, fire, and always unpaid debts.  The first four years often prove heartbreaking for the Wilders.  But they have each other, and their little daughter Rose, and a fierce determination to succeed.  (Summary from book - Image from inspire4less.com)

My Review:  The manuscript for The First Four Years was found among Laura Ingalls Wilder’s personal possessions. It was never revised or completed, and so it does not have the same descriptive detail or polish as her previous novels, but still offers a glimpse into the early years of Laura and Almanzo Wilder’s life together. Each chapter comprises a year of their lives, with the first year filling almost half of the book. Because The First Four Years was left unrevised, it feels like a rushed summary of those years rather than a detailed account, as if Laura planned to go back and flesh out the story, but never did.

Laura’s true feelings about farming are expressed more freely in this book than in any of the others. Apparently, she hated it, which I did not gather from any of the other books. After reading this book, I don’t blame her. Whether it was ruined crops, overwhelming debt, devastating fires, or the loss of a child, it seems the Wilder family could not catch a break. The book rounds out on a “well, we’ll keep at it” note, but I can’t help but wish that I’d let my girls believe that Laura had lived happily ever after on her farm with Almanzo.

I have loved this reading this series – overall I give it a 4.5 – but I’m also glad to be done with it and to move on to some new characters. Doubtless, we will revisit it in a few years when my one-year-old is ready for it.

My Rating: 3 Stars

Sum it up: Not my favorite, but an okay read if you're looking for more of Laura and Almanzo.

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