Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Book Review: On The Way Home

On the Way Home contains the journal entries of Laura Ingalls Wilder during the Wilder family's move to Mansfield, Missouri in 1894. Seven years of drought had forced Laura and Almanzo to leave South Dakota and begin a new life in Missouri. This book details their journey through bustling cities, across muddy rivers, down uncertain roads, and through inclement weather.

Each journal entry is short, so the account of their six-week trip can easily be read in one or two sittings. Her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, sets the scene at the beginning of the book and concludes with her own memories of their first weeks in Missouri. With those insights, you come to understand a little more about the spirit of pioneers like Laura and Almanzo and their sheer determination to succeed at whatever they set out to do.

I can't imagine traveling in a wagon in the heat of summer! The Wilders left South Dakota on July 17th and arrived in Mansfield on August 30th. Before they lost their thermometer, Laura recorded several days of well over 100-degree weather, sometimes as high as 120 degrees in the shade of the wagon!

Other difficulties were making camp each night, sometimes in the rain, usually next to a river or creek for the water. They would buy supplies in the cities, and Laura and Almanzo would talk to most people they met along the way to find out the cost of land in the local area and how well the crops were doing there. They saw people every day moving to where they were moving from, which I thought was interesting.

Even though Laura did not complain in her journal entries, that time in her life was not recalled with great joy in later years. In Rose's recollections of the time, she remembers mentioning to her mother the camp they made for themselves in the first weeks in Missouri, before they had bought their land. Fifty years after the events in the book, Laura fiercely said to Rose, "I don't want to think of it!"

I was surprised how small this book was, and what an easy read it was. It wasn't as exciting as the stories in her children's books are, but it does give much insight into traveling in that day. It's written more for adult readers and would appeal more to them than to children. Although it was easy reading, it wasn't boring. I'd recommend it for anyone wanting to have a little more adult look into the grown-up Laura's life.

This is the last book I read for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge, hosted by Stray Thoughts. I am still reading Farmer Boy, but only about halfway through it. I have thoroughly enjoyed this reading challenge, and I'll be anxiously awaiting next year's challenge! Thanks for hosting it, Barbara!


  1. This is one I haven't read. I don't think I even knew about it until this last month when I saw it mentioned in a couple of other books I read. One of the authors said they found it was boring, but then she didn't like the book of Laura's newspaper columns, either, and I did. I'm glad you didn't find it boring! I'll have to keep it in mind for next year.

  2. Hmm...I wonder if the entries are exactly the same ones in A Little House Traveler (plus many others from other times in her life). Was there more to the book than just the entries?

    So glad you joined in the reading challenge!


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