Okay, let me begin with a disclaimer: yes, I have slightly over two weeks to finish my book manuscript, and therefore I have no business reading Little House on the Prairie books in my pajamas all day, let alone taking fifteen minutes to write about my subsequent Little House on the Prairie Meltdown. It's all about the integrated procrastination, baby. If I didn't give my brain the rest of spending its off-time in De Smet, North Dakota, I wouldn't be getting anywhere.
And a second disclaimer: this is probably a really boring post if you haven't read the Little House on the Prairie books, and possibly even if you have.
Finally, the third and final disclaimer: spoiler alert, for both the life of Laura and, oddly, The Life of Pi.
Yesterday I read the last two books in the series. (I also finished writing a tough chapter. See, integrated procrastination works!) I was completely swooning over Almanzo Wilder in These Happy Golden Years; my review on GoodReads claims that I am officially on Team Almanzo. Edward and Jacob have nothing on the dashing and courageous Almanzo. I haven't fallen for a literary character so hard since the ninth grade, when I scribbled Sydney Carton quotes on my Converse.
And then I had to go and read The First Four Years, the posthumously published and more or less unedited epilogue to the whole series. I wish I could unread it. It's not just that the writing isn't as good or that the journal-like plot is undeveloped. It isn't that Almanzo, suddenly nicknamed the slightly less pitter-pattery "Manly," is less dashing than duncelike. It isn't the even series of unfortunate events that pile on so quickly at the end you've scarcely recovered from Manly's temporary paralysis before they go bankrupt and the house burns down; Lord knows miseries hounded the Ingalls throughout their pioneer days, from those horrible grasshoppers to their near-starvation during seven months of blizzards to that horrid Nellie Oleson.
It's the loss of Laura that is most disillusioning. She's simply not the same character she is in the previous books... which makes it apparent that she was a character in the first place. The compulsive charm of the series is that they were written by a real pioneer, that the little Laura in the story grew up to tell her own tale. When I was a kid, I remember being completely awestruck that she was still alive when my parents were born. I don't want to learn at the last that Laura was in fact cranky and discontent (or, for that matter, that dear Mr. Boast, with his contagious laugh, tried to convince the Wilders to trade their baby Rose for a cow).
I choose the fantasy, grasshoppers and all, or at least I would if that were still an option.
I almost feel a little bit like I did at the end of Life of Pi. Almost.
When I read this series to Juliette, we'll stop before The First Four Years.