Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Ghost in the Little House - Book Review Part 2

Last spring I started a book titled A Ghost in the Little House by William Holtz. It is a biography of Rose Wilder Lane, the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder. As many of you know, I deeply admire Wilder's writing and my bookshelves are lined with numerous titles by and about Wilder and her family.

This book is controversial in that Holtz claims that Rose was the co-author of the now famous Little House series. I've forced myself to keep an open mind while reading it, because I doubt Holtz's claims. Being an editor, doesn't make you a co-author, in my mind.

The beginning was rough for me to get through because it painted a very different picture of Rose's parents than I was used to hearing. Everything I read up to that point spoke of how well liked Laura and Almanzo were. But these were the recollections of friends and neighbors, not the child who lived with them and who spent her adult life feeling like she was committed to taking care of her elderly parents.

I did manage to make it past that part of the timeline and move into Rose's travels, which I found very interesting. She had an amazing life from that perspective. But even in this, she was unhappy according to Holtz because she was forced to write articles to get cash, instead of working on something of substance. And, she always felt she must return to Mansfield, MO upon occasion to check on her parents.

I've now reached the point where Rose is living with friends in the old house at Rocky Ridge Farm. She had a new stone house built for her parents to live in and then she redecorated the old one to her tastes. By this time, Rose was in her early forties. The criticism of Laura begins again. Rose feels interrupted by her mother constantly. References to how harsh and selfish Laura was flow into the text. And once again, I find myself having a difficult time reading about my beloved author in this context.

I am a little over halfway through the book and I know I must read it until the end because I need to know how Holtz supports his idea that Rose should be credited as co-author. In the end, perhaps I will believe as he does. And I wonder what, if any, affect this will have on my opinion of Wilder's books and her abilities as an author. Will I end up regretting reading this book? Will I be thankful my eyes were opened?

I really can't say right now. But as I make it through to the end, I am determined to keep an open mind to the possibilites within.

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