The Ghost in the Little House

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Born in De Smet, South Dakota in 1886, Rose Wilder was the only surviving child of prairie homesteaders Laura Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder. The Wilders’ first years of marriage were fraught with financial hardship, and eventually they moved to Mansfield, Missouri. Reared on the family farm, Rose matured into a rebellious and unconventional young woman who left behind the confines of rural life just as soon as she was able. At seventeen, Rose took a position as a telegrapher in Kansas City; at twenty, she married Gillette Lane, moved to San Francisco, and eventually launched her writing career. In time she would divorce, find success as a well-respected journalist who moved in literary circles, and indulge a passion for world travel. In her middle years, Rose Wilder Lane returned home to care for her parents at Rocky Ridge Farm. There she assisted in the shaping of Mama Bess’s (Laura’s) fictionalized memoirs of the Ingalls family and pioneer life.

The extent of Rose’s involvement is still a matter of controversy, but Holtz presents an interesting case for her role in ghostwriting much of what Laura actually published. Holtz also provides a fascinating look at the tense but loving mother-daughter relationship that existed between these two strong-willed women. This is an absorbing biography that will touch a chord in all readers, and it is a “must” for fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House books.