Prairie Fires Analysis
In this novel, Caroline Fraser provides a fictional biography of one of America's most beloved novelists, Laura Ingalls Wilder. Fraser acknowledges the power and popularity of Wilder's Little House series. She tries to account for its hold on the national imagination while offering a different interpretation of Wilder's life—one that includes many harsh facts that Wilder omitted or glossed over.
On the one hand, using fiction allows the author some leeway in filling gaps where her archival research could not generate all the needed information. On the other hand, not restricting herself to history leaves her interpretation of Wilder's actions and, more importantly, her beliefs and motivations open to question.
The character of Laura's father, in particular, has been pulled off his pedestal. Laura's adoring gaze makes way for a man more flawed but more human, as he guides his family through dangerous terrain.
Fans of Wilder may be fascinated or dismayed, and many may prefer not to have their bubble burst.