I still remember my first encounter with the Little House series. During a weekly class visit to my elementary school library, I decided that it was time to read more grown up books, and sought out the thickest book I could find in their fiction section. I reached for a displayed copy of Farmer Boy, the third book in the famed Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Counting the number of pages (a whopping 372!), and frankly amused by the title, I checked it out. A few short months later, after my summer vacation had come and gone, I had read the entire series by Laura Ingalls Wilder...more than once. I studied those books, carefully paying attention to their descriptions on churning butter or how to make Johnny cakes, amazed that people lived this way once, creating everything from scratch, surviving through winters on one potato a day, walking miles just to go to school, or enduring the summer heat in layer upon layer of clothing, because that's just the way it was done. Her stories were of survival, as thrilling as any adventure book in my eyes, because unlike the latest Choose Your Own Adventure story (it was the early 90's, after all), they were based on actual experiences.
Many years later, as I was browsing a list of upcoming titles, I came upon a book with a very interesting cover. As my eyes caught hold of the girl wearing a pioneer-era dress, the prairie grasses, and those signature braids, the signs merged in my Little House-centric mind, sending signals that this book must have some tie to Laura Ingalls Wilder. Upon further investigation, I discovered that this book was written by someone with a similar obsession to my own, an obsession that is carried through to the main character of Pioneer Girl as she discovers a link in her family history to none other than the Wilders themselves. As Nguyen's main character, Lee, sets out on the research journey of a lifetime to track down further information on Rose Wilder Lane, the famous writer, reporter and daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the source of the link in her family's history, the frustrations of genealogy lead her to dead ends, uncertain sources, and events that will ultimately change her life.
To say that I enjoyed this book would be a definite understatement. I practically inhaled the words on the page, greedily postponing my daily obligations to delve straight into this story, to uncover little known facts that, despite my experiences with the books and my further reading, I had yet to discover. Yes, some story arcs are fictional, but others are based on very real events. I will leave the privilege of determining which is which to you.
A highly enjoyable, light summer read for old and young alike. Recommended for anyone interested in family history or for those who share a fondness for all things Little House.