Little House on the Prairie Books – a Collaboration Between Mother and Daughter?

Via Goodreads

Via Goodreads

by Susan Wittig Albert
Published: September 1, 2013
Publisher: Persevero Press
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Biography
Source: Author


In 1928, Rose Wilder Lane—world traveler, journalist, much-published magazine writer—returned from an Albanian sojourn to her parents’ Ozark farm. Almanzo Wilder was 71, Laura 61, and Rose felt obligated to stay and help. To make life easier, she built them a new home, while she and Helen Boylston transformed the farmhouse into a rural writing retreat and filled it with visiting New Yorkers. Rose sold magazine stories to pay the bills for both households, and despite the subterranean tension between mother and daughter, life seemed good.

Then came the Crash. Rose’s money vanished, the magazine market dried up, and the Depression darkened the nation. That’s when Laura wrote her autobiography, “Pioneer Girl,” the story of growing up in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, on the Kansas prairie, and by the shores of Silver Lake. The rest—the eight remarkable books that followed—is literary history.

But it isn’t the history we thought we knew. For the surprising truth is that Laura’s stories were publishable only with Rose’s expert rewriting. Based on Rose’s unpublished diaries and Laura’s letters, A Wilder Rose tells the true story of the decade-long, intensive, and often troubled collaboration that produced the Little House books—the collaboration that Rose and Laura deliberately hid from their agent, editors, reviewers, and readers.

Why did the two women conceal their writing partnership? What made them commit what amounts to one of the longest-running deceptions in American literature? And what happened in those years to change Rose from a left-leaning liberal to a passionate Libertarian?

In this impeccably researched novel and with a deep insight into the book-writing business gained from her own experience as an author and coauthor, Susan Wittig Albert follows the clues that take us straight to the heart of this fascinating literary mystery.

* * *

My Thoughts:

I checked every one out time and time again from my grade school library. The Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder could not be read enough. A touchstone to my childhood and love of the printed word, they became a part of me. Our family also enjoyed the TV series that followed some years later. Perhaps it was my desire to be loved the way Laura was loved as a child which caused my fascination with her stories.

When Susan Wittig Albert asked if I would review her book about Laura and her daughter, Rose, I felt a thrill and a momentary glimpse into those days of reading the Little House books under the sycamore in front of our house.

Previously, I had read snippets here and there along the lines of Rose assisting her mother’s writing efforts. After all, Laura was 65 when the first book was published. That fact alone made me nervous as at age 67, I’m writing my first book. However, the reason given for Laura’s need for Rose’s writing expertise was that Laura’s writing was not polished and crisp, nor as detailed and descriptive as most publishers would require.

Rose, on the other hand, had been writing for almost 20 years and was a highly successful writer. She had been published in magazines, newspapers and had even published several books by the time she returned home to help her parents.

Using Rose’s unpublished diaries and letters and her published works, together with manuscripts and printed texts of the Little House books and the biography written by William Holtz entitled, The Ghost in the Little House: A Life of Rose Wilder Lane (1993), Ms. Albert has succeeded in bringing together not only a history of the Wilders in later life and Rose’s life and friends, but also the history of the era in which they were living when Laura’s writing was most active. As a work of historical fiction, A Wilder Rose is well substantiated by the resources Ms. Albert has used.

I immediately identified with the relationship between Rose and her mother, having lived a very similar life with my mother. The tension between them is hard to delineate and place responsibility because they are each strong and spirited women, both seemingly intelligent and desirous of independence, and yet dependent on one another for affirmation and validation. How they possibly worked through Laura’s books without completely destroying their relationship is amazing!

More amazing than that fact is Ms. Albert’s completed work. A Wilder Rose is a fascinating look at the result of several years of research and writing culminating in a genuinely interesting glimpse at a family in transition due to a number of circumstances, including individual, familial and national changes. In the midst of those circumstances, Laura and Rose manage to collaborate, if you will, on Laura’s Little House series and bring to the reading public a treasured and timeless series of books well settled in our nation’s history of its people crossing to and establishing homes in the plains.

My Recommendation: For anyone who loves Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie Books and would like to know more about the Wilders beyond those books, for anyone with an interest in the subject of ghostwriting and collaboration and how Rose pulled it all off, and for anyone who loves historical fiction, this book is a must read.

* * *

Meet the Author:

Susan Wittig Albert’s award-winning fiction, which has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, includes mysteries in the China Bayles series, the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, and a series of Victorian-Edwardian mysteries she has written with her husband, Bill Albert, under the pseudonym of Robin Paige.

She has written two memoirs: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days and Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place, published by the University of Texas Press.

Her nonfiction titles include What Wildness is This: Women Write About the Southwest (winner of the 2009 Willa Award for Creative Nonfiction); With Courage and Common Sense; Writing from Life: Telling the Soul’s Story; and Work of Her Own: A Woman’s Guide to Success Off the Career Track.

She is founder and past president of the Story Circle Network and a member of the Texas Institute of Letters.

Visit Susan Wittig Albert at any of the links appearing on her website.

* * *

NOTE: I extend my thanks to Ms. Albert for providing me with an ARC of A Wilder Rose via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Additionally, Ms. Albert has written A Reader’s Companion to A Wilder Rose. As an advanced reader, Ms. Wilder also provided me with a copy of the Companion. It was most helpful and interesting as I read the book.

* * *



15 thoughts on “Little House on the Prairie Books – a Collaboration Between Mother and Daughter?

  1. roughwighting June 8, 2016 at 7:44 am Reply

    Great review. Although I somehow missed reading (or watching) LHP books or series, I’ve certainly heard so many talk about it. I’d read A Wilder Rose just for the inside look at the mother/daughter relationship. With a strong mom, and a stronger daughter, I could use a little insight. 🙂


  2. […] Little House on the Prairie Books – a Collaboration Between Mother and Daughter? […]


  3. goodworks1 October 3, 2013 at 7:01 am Reply

    It took me some time to track down the Reader’s Companion, but I finally located it here:


    • Susan Wittig Albert October 3, 2013 at 7:12 am Reply

      Goodworks1, we posted the Companion as a free download for about a month on that site, and nearly 300 people took advantage of the offer. We’ve taken it down now, but It will be available soon (this week, I hope!) as a Kindle book (I think the price is $2.99). Thanks for your interest!


    • Sherrey Meyer October 3, 2013 at 1:10 pm Reply

      Goodworks1, thanks for your persistence and leaving a comment here. I see that Susan has replied with lots of good information.

      Thanks, Susan, for that additional info!


  4. Susan Wittig Albert October 3, 2013 at 5:58 am Reply

    Sherrey, thanks to you (and your readers!) for your interest in my work. Rose Wilder Lane was a remarkable woman who lived a daring life in an era when women’s lives were expected to follow a Victorian pattern. There’s so much myth out there about the Wilders–I’m so glad that Rose left us her diaries and journals, so we can piece together the truth behind the fictions.


    • Sherrey Meyer October 3, 2013 at 1:09 pm Reply

      Susan, thank you for sharing the wealth of information you have uncovered with us. A Wilder Rose is fascinating and intriguing. I’ll be reading some of the books in your resource list. You have also provided a window for me into writing biographical or historical fiction. I have two such projects awaiting the completion of my memoir.


  5. Janet Givens October 2, 2013 at 5:45 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on janetgivens and commented:
    So, it seems that Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 when she wrote the Little House books.. How very serendipitous to learn this one month after my 65th birthday and with my first solo book about to come out. I have a new muse to guide me.


  6. krpooler October 2, 2013 at 2:58 pm Reply

    Excellent review, Sherrey. I love the Laura Ingalls series and now feel very intrigued about the story behind the story based on your review. Thank you!


    • Sherrey Meyer October 2, 2013 at 3:09 pm Reply

      Thanks, Kathy! Susan has done a masterful job of researching and writing this book, and it is intriguing, fascinating, and a real page-turner. I’m sure you will enjoy it.


  7. shirleyhs October 2, 2013 at 2:22 pm Reply

    Well, Sherrey, I identified with nearly everything in this lovely post. I too was an avid reader of the LHP series. I too had heard about the Rose-Laura mystery, and I’m sure I would enjoy reading the book. When I tried to describe my own memoir I called it part Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, part Growing Up Amish, and part Little House on the Prairie.

    And I too had Sycamore trees shading the house in which I grew up.

    I’m so impressed by Susan Wittig Albert’s long list of credentials. Thanks for including those.



    • Sherrey Meyer October 2, 2013 at 3:01 pm Reply

      Hello, busy Shirley! Do your feet touch the ground? Are you spinning too fast to slow down? I have enjoyed your launch vicariously from OR. And I have just begun Blush. I think your description — part Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, part Growing Up Amish, and part Little House on the Prairie — is likely to become a household description of Blush.

      Did you love your Sycamore trees as much as I did? The best place to stretch out and read a book, or to look between the leaves and branches in search of that bit of sunlight peeking through, and the leaves in fall!

      I almost left Susan’s credentials out because the synopsis and my review had already become too long, but I couldn’t bring myself to cut any one. Impressive list, indeed!

      Thanks for stopping by!


  8. jimrada October 2, 2013 at 3:03 am Reply

    For some reason, I had always thought that Rose was involved in helping her mother write the Little House books. After all, she was the experienced writer and living near her mom at the time. Now I’m intriqued to find out the details.


    • Sherrey Meyer October 2, 2013 at 2:57 pm Reply

      If you’re intrigued and have often wondered about the Wilders and the mother-daughter relationship, this book will fascinate you, at least it did me. And I encourage you to purchase the companion as it gives so much additional information and many resources.


And what do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: