[The Long Winter]: A Review

Hi everyone! Today I’m back with the June edition of the Little House Read Along hosted by Bex @ An Armchair by the Sea and Lynn @ Smoke and Mirrors. Each month, we will read and review one of the Little House books. More info about the read along can be found through the links above. Check it out with the read along hashtag (#LittleHouseRAL) and join us anytime!

I’m just in time getting this review published before the end of June 🙂

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The book in June is The Long Winter.

Initial thoughts:

  • I wasn’t really looking forward to reading this one. Maybe because I had a hard time getting excited about the last novel. But I was pleasantly surprised.
  • I’m all the more grateful that I live in the time that I do. I’m shocked no one dies in this book.
  • I love that we get more from Almanzo in this book! Having both Laura and Almanzo together in the same place is so fun.
  • Also I want his pancakes recipe.

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The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder returns to the Ingalls family living on their homestead in Dakota Territory. When a harsh and intense winter comes early, Pa moves the family into nearby De Smet to stay for the winter. But even in town things are difficult. The weather is icy cold, food begins to run short, and the trains will not come again until spring. As the Ingalls family fights to survive, they learn just how hard a Dakota winter can be. Meanwhile, young Almanzo Wilder is saving his wheat seed for next year’s sowing. But when he begins to understand the dire situation of the Ingalls family and many others, he decides to go for help. Along with Cap Garland, Almanzo goes in search of a farmer who has wheat out on the prairie. Finding it would save the town, getting lost would mean certain death. Can everyone survive the long winter?

I returned to enjoying Laura’s perspective in this book. I was glad to see she started to like living in town and enjoyed going to school. She must really act as the big sister in this book; she takes care of and sacrifices for her family so well. From giving everyone Christmas presents to learning to twisting hay with Pa to deciding to become a school teacher to help Mary go to blind college, Laura makes a lot of sacrifices for her family. I appreciated her added maturity and hard work. But I also appreciated her innocence. Life during the hard winter continued to get worse and worse as it progressed. But her narratorial voice never seemed concerned about starving or sickness or death. Seeing a hard winter from the eyes of a child, albeit an older child, gave me a new perspective of life on the frontier.

I was pleasantly surprised to get more scenes from Almanzo’s perspective in this book. Because I know that he eventually marries Laura, I was always anxious for them to interact. But I enjoyed seeing the kind of man Almanzo had become. He works hard and knows what he wants in life. But he is also kind and risks everything to save the people of De Smet. I was almost cheering out loud for him as he and Cap crossed the prairie with the grain. I admire his determination and his passion for what he loves. One of my favorite scenes in the book is when the men try to shot buffalo and Almanzo has to go after his horse, Lady. I love that he searches for her and that he finds her. I think it shows his strong personality too. Plus, he makes great pancakes (the Wilder boys’ meals had my mouth watering regularly).

I think this quote from Almanzo when discussing how he would not accept payment for travelling to find the wheat shows his character quite well.

“I say it’s good business to treat people right. ….. Get it in your head if you can, there’s not money enough in the mint to pay for that trip. We didn’t make it for you and you can’t pay us for it.”

The Long Winter, page 305

While there have been moments of survival in previous Little House books, I was shocked by the intensity of the survival in this one. Can I just say surviving a hard winter is almost impossible! Between the lack of food, heat, light, and movement, I am shocked everyone survived. I almost missed just how bad it was because of the way Laura did not focus on the lack of food (just the lack of variety). It was when Pa goes to the Wilder’s shop and discovers Almanzo’s hidden wheat that it really hit me. They were starving. And they couldn’t do anything to stop it. I am again astounded by the tenacity and will power of settlers during this time. It’s amazing what they did to survive–from the button lamp to the coffee ground wheat to the burning of hay twists. I really am amazed at their ingenuity and skills.

There were so many quotes in this book that struck me and are still applicable to today.

For example, Ma says the following when she decides to make a green pumpkin pie (which tastes like an apple pie, who knew?!). I think its a great motto for life.

“But we wouldnt do much if we didn’t do things nobody ever heard of before.”

The Long Winter, page 32

If times were too progressive in the 1880s, then just think of where we are today. I kept thinking of how I would not know how to survive much longer than a week or two without electricity or groceries or my AC. I love this quote from Pa. Just another way I am impressed by the pioneers.

“These times are too progressive. Everything has changed too fast. Railroads and telegraph and kerosene and coal stoves–theyre good things to have but the trouble is, folks get to depend on ’em.”

The Long Winter, page 192

And last but not least, I love this quote from Pa towards the end of the book when life is getting monotonous and there still seems to be no end to the blizzards even in April.

“It’s got to quit sometime and we don’t. It can’t lick is. We won’t give up.

The Long Winter, page 310

I have never been so glad to hear that spring came in a novel. I wanted to shout for joy with Laura when the wind changes adn the snow starts melting. And the Christmas barrel coming in May is just darling. Although I do still wonder at them eating such a Christmas feast right after they were so malnourished living on only brown bread and tea. Can anyone explain that to me?

Overall, a lovely book. I think this is my favorite in the series so far.

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What did you think of The Long Winter?
Which Little House book is your favorite?

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5 thoughts on “[The Long Winter]: A Review

  1. Yes! You are so right! Those pancakes seemed magical, didn’t they? Of course, if that’s all you have beyond the typical brown bread and potatoes, those pancakes probably did seem magical! I love your quotes and your summary! I’m with you about Almanzo and Cap’s treacherous journey. I noticed my heart beating fast and I was literally sitting on the edge of my chair reading the end of their journey. I was so worried they were going to die in that blizzard! (Now, I realize that’s stupid, since we KNOW Almanzo lives, but…in the moment, it seemed more than possible!) You know, I wasn’t really ‘anxiously anticipating’ this one, especially as it just covered one winter…but it was an awesome read! So revealing about their lives and the dangers they faced! Love your review and apologize for my delay in reading and commenting. So glad you’re with us in this reading venture of the Little House books!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Lynn! I felt the same way about the trek to find the wheat. And I was just surprised by how close they all come to starving. Such a difference from the next book (which I also loved)! No worries on the delay. And thanks for hosting! It’s been so fun to experience them again (some feel like it’s the first I’ve read them!). 🙂

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  2. Pingback: June Wrap-Up and July TBR | greenish bookshelf

  3. Great review! Almanzo is an awesome young man. Just wait for the next books; you’re going to get a lot more of his excellent character.

    BTW, I couldn’t wait for spring to arrive, too. Every time they saw another stupid cloud in the NW or wherever it was, it felt like a punch in the stomach.

    Liked by 1 person

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