One thing that has changed over the years is my faith. I wasn't raised in a religious household but Jesus took hold of me first in junior high, then I was a prodigal in high school, and then finally He called me to Himself in college. It's been over 10 years now of me walking with the Lord.
I started to watch "Little House on the Prairie" with my family a few months back. I read "Little House in the Big Woods" to my boys, ages 8 and 10. I actually read it first to my daughter, but she was wee, only a month old at the time. And yet, even she (who is now 2) loves to watch "Prairie." My husband is not a fan of old-fashioned things (think black & white movies and such), but he has wanted to sit and watch this series with us. I just picked up "Little House on the Prairie" to being reading to my boys tonight.
There is something simple and wholesome about the Ingalls clan. Growing up reading and watching, I didn't catch their faith. I knew they went to church but I didn't understand the underlying faith behind that. To me, church was a duty, gaining favor and points at Midweek/catechism. Knowing the Lord now, I understand it is not a duty but a joy to go join and collectively worship the Lord. I now understand that the Ingalls had a faith that allowed them joy in the midst of their trials.
|image via Amazon|
For me, what fails in this book is the lack of footnotes or citations within the text. Yes, I could follow each part I'm curious about to the Notes section at the end, but honestly that's a lot of work that I'd expect to be done by the author. He talks of Laura's inability to "control her adventurous and now sexually curious daughter." How does he know that? Even in the notes, there is no acknowledgement of where this statement stems from. The notes section does not even give regard to page numbers, only chapter numbers. Perhaps that is just a preference but I find it annoying to not understand where the author got some of his information from.
Hines also seemed to put his opinions over sources or rumors, too. He said that "One thing I can't and won't believe is that Laura deliberately neglected her daughter, though some scholars have suggested it." Well, did he know her personally? Did she specifically state this in her articles or books? Maybe she did (I'd like to believe she didn't either!). I find it hilarious that this statement was in this book, considering later Hines tells us that "Fiery [an editor] outright rejected the idea of a picture book and asked for an expanded narrative in the third person. Rose explained to her mother the reasoning behind this, saying, "'I' books do not sell well."" And yet I find that this book is full of I statements, whereas I was lead to believe this was a book of facts, not opinions.
I'd like to believe that Laura Ingalls Wilder had a deep faith that carried her family through rough times and was passed down from her beloved Ma and Pa. However, quoting from her semi-fictional books shows me more of a cultural religion than a deep faith. Her newspaper articles do seem to tell of a faith, although deeply private (which is odd, considering the Great Commission to spread the gospel of the Lord to the ends of the earth) as shown in this account "from Pamela Hill's Pioneer Girl": "Howard Ensign had joined the Congregational church...and would testify at prayer meeting...It someway offended my sense of privacy. It seemed to me that the things between one and God should be between him and God like loving ones [sic] mother. One didn't go around saying, "I love my mother, she has been so good to me." One just loved her and did things that she liked one to do." Realizing I have come to know Christ in a highly evangelical world, I know others have a very private faith; I just have a hard time thinking that a private faith is real. That may sound harsh but my faith in Christ is deep-rooted so that it penetrates all of who I am and what I do. There is no privacy in that; Christ has called us to the world.
I do feel badly for Laura and Almanzo, if they indeed did have faith. Their daughter, Rose, was sorely lacking in faith. Hines depicts Wilder Lane as a bit of a wild child, a humanist who thought the pioneers survived more on grit than on faith. Perhaps she was right, but many people live and survive through faith alone. I'm just still unsure after reading "A Prairie Girl's Faith" if Laura Ingalls Wilder was one of them.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in order to write an honest review. Others' opinions may differ from my own but they are my own.