Hi everyone! Today I’m here with my October review as part of the Little House Read Along hosted by Bex @ An Armchair by the Sea and Lynn @ Smoke and Mirrors. These last three months of the year are dedicated to Laura’s letters and biographies. Looking forward to them! 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 actually switching this month and November because the book for this month is checked out at the library and won’t be in until after October is over. So I decided to read West from Home: Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder, San Francisco 1915 this month.
This collection of letters was found in the Wilder home after Laura, Almanzo, and Rose had all died. Roger MacBride, Rose’s lawyer and friend, decided to publish them in the 1970s.
For me, this was like getting an epilogue after the “happily ever after.” I usually want more details about life after books end. And these letters do just that for fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
West from Home is a collection of letters that Laura wrote to her husband, Almanzo (or Manly) when she went to visit their daughter Rose and her husband in San Francisco in 1915. Laura writes of the train journey to San Francisco and all the adventures she has there. The world’s fair was in San Francisco at the time to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal and Laura was able to attend many exhibitions there. Throughout the collection, she acts as Manly’s eyes–showing him the expanse and beauty of the ocean, the sites and sounds of the fair, and the details of everyday life.
What stands out first to me is that this is nonfiction. These letters are not based on Laura’s life, but are an actual part of her life. She really went to visit Rose and wrote back to Manly. I love that we get a true glimpse into the Wilder’s lives and their relationship. Laura writes every couple of days and fills her letters with images and stories of her trip. I enjoyed that. What also amazed me was that these letters sound much like the Little House Books. They have the same tone and description. That makes me think that Laura wasn’t creating the scenes for the popular children’s books so much as narrating what she remembers in her life. I love that.
I have not read many letter collections (I can’t think of any others right now). So this was something different for me. I enjoyed reading them. But I would have liked it better to have Manly’s responses also included. We can feel Laura’s love and imagination in her letters. But I wonder what Manly’s hold? If there’s one thing I wish the Little House Series had, it would be more emotion from them during their courtship and early marriage. We get a glimpse of that from Laura who is homesick and worried about Manly in every letter. Hearing Manly’s side of the trip would be interesting too.
Laura has a unique gift for describing the sights and sounds of this trip. She so vividly depicts the ocean and the sunset that I felt that I was there. I longed to accompany her to the Worlds Fair, to see fireworks above the bay, to wander the beach and small towns further out. I laughed out loud when Rose wrote to her father concerned about Laura growing fat. What a difference from the long winters of earlier books! All the descriptions were well done and now I want to visit San Francisco again after reading of her adventures.
I was amazed by the ways technology is so similar to today and yet so distant from it. It takes Laura several days to make the trip from Missouri and it would only take hours to fly now. But she goes out to restaurants with Rose, rides a street car (trolley) around the city, and sees almost nightly fireworks at the fair. The world came so far from the early books when the Ingalls travel by covered wagon to Indian Territory. Now Laura can just go for a visit to California with few problems. That is amazing!
I think the letters were just the right length–just over 100 pages. While they are enjoyable, they are not super plot driven and the descriptions of the fair can only go on for so long. The collection reads easily because the individual letters break up the collection easier than chapter. Also, I really enjoyed the pictures from 1910’s San Francisco–that was a neat touch to bring the stories to life even more.
Overall, a neat, historical read that anyone who enjoys the Little House books will appreciate.
Have you read any great letter collections?