I didn’t consider my work for Mama Bess to be the same thing as my ghostwriting for Lowell Thomas. She was my mother and I was obliged to help her–and I wasn’t getting paid. But if Marion Fiery had any idea how much I was involved, she might consider it ghostwriting. She might just toss off a mention in an editorial meeting: “Oh, by the way, Mrs. Wilder’s book is being ghostwritten by Rose Lane, so there won’t be a lot of editorial work to be done on it.” Word would get around, and I didn’t want that.
Would I have felt differently if I had known that this one book was only the first of an eight-book series? Would I have asked for recognition and a share of the royalties if I had known that each book would take two or three months away from my writing projects and sap whatever meager store of energy I might have for my own work?
— from A Wilder Rose, Susan Wittig Albert, 2013
This novel has permanently changed my view of the Little House series. Having grown up with the books and the TV series, Laura Ingalls Wilder is a household name. Rose Wilder Lane was not. Maybe in the past ten years I had somehow acquired the knowledge that Rose was Laura’s daughter, but it didn’t mean much to me. I had no idea Rose was the professional writer in the family, the one who took her mother’s orange composition notebooks filled with her anecdotes and created the books that sit on many, many bookshelves today. But the really interesting story lies in the strained relationship between Laura and Rose. And then, place an already tense family situation into the volatile time period of the 1930s and early 40s. The Little House books might be about brave pioneers surviving difficult trials, but between the lines hides the ghost of the books: the daughter who inherited the stories, built the storyline, supported her parents, but whose independence led her through an entirely different journey.