Here’s my monthly book review. Because of all the National Poetry Month activities, I only had time to read two books last month. I’m thankful April is over with for this reason. Maybe this month, I’ll have more time for reading.
Last One Home by Debbie Macomber Copyright 2015
After downloading this book in a recorded format from Audible and hearing this author’s voice reading her letter to readers at the beginning of the book, I finally learned the correct pronunciation of her last name. (MAY-comb-ber) Not only have I read many of her books but I receive her monthly newsletter via e-mail and am kept up to date on what she’s doing with her family as well as with her writing. She’s a grandmother, but after hearing her voice, I find that hard to believe. She sounds so young.
The Last One Home is a touching story of love, betrayal, and family ties being severed and re-connected. At eighteen years of age and pregnant, Cassie runs away from her family’s home in Spokane, Washington, to Florida with the man she thinks she loves who is the father of her child. Twelve years later after escaping her abusive husband with her daughter, she has moved to Seattle where she works as a hair stylist and is accepted into the Habitat for Humanity program where she will help in the building of her own house. She also volunteers at a shelter, helping other abused women fleeing from their relationships. Her family home has been sold. Her parents are dead, and her older and younger sisters live in Spokane and Portland, Oregon, respectively.
Her first attempts to re-connect with her sisters are met with apathy. The sisters are still bitter toward her for leaving years earlier and breaking their father’s heart. However, after Karen in Spokane offers Cassie some furniture from her family home, the relationship between the three of them gradually re-develops. Cassie also finds herself falling for the man supervising the construction of her home. This is scary to her since she had similar feelings toward her abusive husband when they first met. She’s not sure she’s ready to trust another man.
As in many of Debbie Macomber’s books, the point of view in Last One Home shifts from that of one character to another. We gain a glimpse into the lives of Cassie’s sisters: Karen in Spokane and Nicole in Portland, Oregon, and sub-plots develop. They’re both married with children, and their lives seem ideal until Karen accidentally finds out that her husband was laid off from his job months after the fact and Nicole discovers her husband has been cheating on her. In the end, all three sisters come together to support each other in their trials and tribulations, and things are looking up.
The only character not given a point of view is Duke, Cassie’s abusive husband. He is eventually imprisoned for manslaughter, and I would have liked to know what he was thinking, but who knows what goes on in the heads of men like that? Do they ever see the error of their ways? This book made me mad, at Duke, at Cassie’s sisters for their closed-mindedness in the beginning, and even at Cassie for not admitting at first that she’d made a mistake when she ran away with Duke. I was glad in the end, though.
A Wilder Rose: Rose Wilder Lane, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Their Little Houses by Susan Wittig Albert Copyright 2013
This is a fictionalized account of the lives of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House series, and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane, spanning ten years between 1928 and 1938 while they were collaborating on most of the books in the series. Telling the story mostly from Rose Wilder Lane’s point of view, the author gives a brief account of Rose’s life growing up. The family was forced to move from their South Dakota home after Rose accidentally set the house on fire at the age of three by putting too much wood in the stove. They settled on a farm near Mansfield, Missouri.
Rose felt guilty for causing the fire and resented farm life. A free spirit, she finally left home at the age of eighteen and became a journalist, traveling all over the country and overseas, getting married and divorced, and giving birth to a son who died as an infant. She finally returned to the family farm in Missouri in 1928 when she felt obligated to help her aging parents. She built them a separate house on the property, wired both houses for plumbing and electricity, and took over the main farm house.
To tell the truth, Rose Wilder Lane was more her mother’s ghost writer. She never wanted credit for the books. Laura wrote the original manuscripts by hand, and Rose typed them, editing and rewriting as she went along. At first, Laura didn’t like her daughter’s revisions, but after Farmer Boy was rejected the way her mother wrote it, she grudgingly agreed to let Rose do the revisions.
Rose not only wrote magazine articles but also fiction, which her mother despised. This was one of many sources of tension between mother and daughter. Several of her short stories and a couple of novels were published during this ten-year period.
Susan Wittig Albert describes other stresses Rose faced during those years. Needless to say, the stock market crash in 1929 and the ensuing depression caused financial worries. Although Rose and her mother lived in separate houses, her mother constantly phoned or stopped by for tea, interrupting her writing. Her writer friends often visited or stayed with her for long periods of time, and her mother didn’t like any of them and was disturbed by gossip about them in the small town. Rose also took in two teen-aged orphaned boys and cared for them as if they were her sons. This all became too much for her, and in 1935, she moved to Columbia, Missouri, so she could be on her own. In 1938, she left Missouri for good and moved to New York where she started doing more political writing.
With her daughter’s help, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote eight of the books in the Little House series: Little House in the Big Woods, Farmer Boy, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plumb Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years. These books detail her life growing up in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota. After These Happy Golden Years was published, Laura wrote another book on her own, The First Four Years, which details her early life with her husband Almanzo. Since Rose didn’t have a hand in this book, readers were disappointed because the prose wasn’t the same as in the other books.
According to the epilog, Laura Ingalls Wilder died in 1958 after being diagnosed with diabetes. Rose Wilder Lane lived for another eleven years. The book also provides a bibliography of material by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and others.
As a kid, I read all the books in the Little House series including The First Four Years. I must have been around twelve when I read that one, and I didn’t notice a difference in the prose, but kids don’t notice these things or care. It’s all about the story.
I also liked the television series, Little House on the Prairie, based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s story. Melissa Gilbert, the actress who portrayed Laura, wrote a memoir about her experiences called Prairie Tale. I plan to read this book next and will investigate other books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane.
Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author
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