Book Corner 2019.37

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Rose Wilder Lane: Her Story by Roger Lea MacBride

This is a “perfectly genuine fictional autobiography.” It was written not by Rose Wilder Lane, but by her protégée Roger Lea MacBride. It covers the period of Rose’s life beginning with her leaving Mansfield, Missouri for the west coast; through her stint as a telegraph operator; and her marriage to and divorce from Gillette Lane. Altogether it covers at least three years. It is factual that Rose did work as a telegraph operator in California, and that she married and divorced Lane. I am not sure anything else in the plot is true.

In particular, the figure of Paul Masters looms large – Paul is the boy who traveled south with his family in a wagon from Dakota to Missouri, along with the Wilders, when Rose and Paul were wee children. I am not sure that he grew up to be a genuine love interest of Rose at all; here they are informally engaged, indulging in passionate lovemaking several times. Paul appears constantly in her life out in California – I am not sure it is at all true, either, that he ever went West.

But what can I say – it’s a gripping yarn! I hardly wanted to put it down. MacBride writes a great little story… perhaps there is enough of Rose’s actual material here too, shining through enough to enamor me.

Oh, the cover has got to go, though – its illustration shows a behatted Rose and is obviously based on a famous photo of her, but in the background is a Conestoga wagon traversing an empty prairie. The Wilders were traveling in this style some 10 years or more before the book ever takes place. There are no prairies or covered wagons in the story. This isn’t LITTLE HOUSE, Garth Williams – or Garth Williams wanna-be, can’t tell. ( )

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