Fellow Chicagoan Wendy McClure's new book is a fun and fascinating perspective on the Laura Ingalls Wilder subculture. If you're looking for an unusual and entertaining non-fiction summer read, it's well worth checking out.
The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie is a mouthful of title, but don't be intimidated. McClure is a friendly and approachable writer. She comes off as the type of level-headed Midwestern girl that everyone should have as a friend.
Despite my professional training in subcultural studies, I was unaware of the Little House obsessed until about 1997. That's when, on a cross-country road trip, my wife and I suddenly found ourselves unable to find a place to stay in the middle of South Dakota. We had stopped for the night in the vicinity of De Smet (where much of the Little House story took place) during, unbeknownst to us, the annual Laura Ingalls Wilder pilgrimage. As we drove from place to place seeking a room (this was before the rise of the web, remember) a front desk clerk clued us in. "You won't find a room within 300 miles, the Laura people are in town" she said. And she was right.
This book really tickles two aspects of my personality. First, the sociologist loves the insider view of an interesting, and very American, subculture. In that regard, The Wilder Life is like HST's Hell's Angels, but without the drugs and violence.
Additionally, having recently completed a book project related to my own obsession with a collected work, I can fully appreciated McClure's desire to more deeply understand something she loves. Her book not only captures her personal journey, but exposes the truths and self-discoveries she made along the way.