Monday, April 7, 2008

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Here is a book review of The Long Winter that I wrote last year. I've made a few changes to it since its original publication, but you'll probably be able to figure out it's one of my favorites.

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

On the Dakota prairie, the muskrats built their thick-walled houses and the geese flew south with great haste, not even stopping to rest in the Big Slough. Pa Ingalls watched these signs and worried of what they foretold.

The Long Winter continues the saga of the Ingalls family--pioneers who continued to move west until they finally settled in the new town of De Smet in Dakota Territory. A surprise October blizzard leaves Pa fearful for his family’s safety as their claim shanty is in no condition to withstand the seven months of storms a wise Indian has predicted.

Pa moves Ma, Mary, Laura, Carrie and Grace into the store building in town so they can be snug and warm, and close to supplies. But the constant blizzards, sometimes only a day or two apart, keep the trains from reaching De Smet. There is no coal, no kerosene, no flour, and no game to hunt. The men go to work on sunny days with picks and shovels, trying to clear the Tracy cut so that the trains can get through to the townspeople who are slowly wasting away. Then the word comes--no trains until spring, and the people of De Smet wonder how long they can survive.

The reason I am drawn to this book is because of its wonderful descriptions. Wilder paints a clear picture of what it was like to live in Dakota Territory during that harsh winter. From the hunger for food, to the frost covered nails on the roof of her house, to the piercing screams of the constant blizzards, Wilder pulls me in. I feel the pain Laura experiences as she watches her family suffer through the dangers of living in a new town where not even rabbits can be hunted for food. I admire Almanzo and Cap as they risk their lives to save the townspeople. And I join in the excitement of waiting for that first train to arrive after months of no supplies.

A book of courage against seemingly insurmountable odds makes The Long Winter a must read for all Laura Ingalls Wilder fans.

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