Have you read every book Laura Ingalls Wilder has ever written? Did you watch every season of Little House on the Prairie over and over again and can you hear Melissa Gilbert cry “Pa!” just as clear as can be? Did you even read Roger Lea MacBride's spinoff series about Laura’s daughter, Rose? Perhaps you’ve visited all the museums and still have documentation stating you belong to a LHOTP fan club you joined as a child. If you're nodding your head yes to everything I've asked you should pull out your calico bonnet and curl up in your distressed rocking chair with Caroline. Caroline is a fictionalized portrayal of Caroline Ingalls during the Ingalls’ Kansas journey. Besides being a must-read for any LHOTP fan, it is beautifully written, well-researched, and celebrates the back-breaking life of the exceptional woman who gave us Laura Ingalls Wilder.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Ingalls’ Kansas journey, it was a grueling and dangerous move from Wisconsin to Indian Territory. Shortly after arriving in Kansas, Charles built a little house with the help of a neighbor (Mr. Edwards!), Caroline Ingalls gave birth to their third child, Carrie, and the family settled into prairie life. The prairie life portrayed in Wilder’s LHOTP books is a lot different when read through the eyes of Caroline Ingalls, who was quite the protective ma. Wolves, sickness, Native Americans, and fire no longer sound like the deliciously scary stuff I read as a kid inhaling one Laura book after another. They’re truly terrifying from Caroline Ingalls' perspective, a perspective that became mine as this book consumed me. As you anxiously flip through the pages you will feel the jarring of the wagon and your rocking chair will disappear. Caroline Ingalls' tears, as she struggles to overcome fear, bitterness, and self-pity will fall from your face.
But Caroline is about so much more than the back-breaking and tireless work of two pioneers staking a claim in Indian Territory. Balancing the fear and exhaustion is a wealth of love, resourcefulness, and gratitude. Caroline Ingalls is portrayed as strong-willed, passionate, deliberate, and patient. Behind her composure, however, is a flurry of wild, unrestrained thoughts. And though these thoughts may have never existed, Sarah Miller makes them seem perfectly plausible. I was so caught up in Caroline I felt just as fiercely protective of her family as Caroline Ingalls herself. When Caroline Ingalls pauses before scolding Laura and Mary because she “did not want to soil the air further with the sound of her own scolding,” I breathed that same air. Though I’ve never made food over an open fire, I felt the frustration that she kept just out of reach of her family so they wouldn’t taste it. The exceptional writing and beautiful portrayal of a phenomenal woman balance the extreme circumstances perfectly and make this a riveting read.
If you’re a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan like me, you will want to get a copy of this as soon as possible. Even if you’ve never read any of the LHOTP books or watched a single episode of the television series, Caroline is an excellent choice for anyone who loves historical fiction, engaging writing, or a fierce, motherly protagonist.