Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)
I have been a devotee of the Little House on the Prairie books since the age of 7. I had a set of the books, which I read at least once a year for at least eight years in a row. As I reread them, I did have some gnawing questions: Why didn’t Pa ever seem to build an outhouse? How were all the aunts and uncles related to Laura? What was a “delaine” and why was it such a big deal to Ma?
The new novel Caroline, by Sarah Miller, answered those questions and many more for me. Caroline presents the story of Little House on the Prairie through the eyes of Laura’s Ma, Caroline Ingalls. It ties in almost seamlessly with the original, so as a longtime fan I wasn’t in for any plot-related surprises. But this novel gave me an adult satisfaction that the original, written for young readers, did not.
The Ma of the Little House books has always seemed to me a bit of a blank. She was strict but mild-mannered, and that was about all we knew. In Caroline, she comes into focus, as a proud and capable woman who sometimes struggles with her roles, especially as helpmeet to a maddeningly optimistic man. In fact, I think my favorite thing about this book was the relationship between Caroline and Charles, because it was one of the many things the original series never explained. Instead of being simply Ma and Pa, they are man and woman, husband and wife, and their relationship is as deep and as fraught as that of any couple trying to forge a life together.
When I finished reading Caroline, I was sorry to again leave behind such beloved characters. I can only hope that Miller continues to follow Caroline Ingalls’s story, and writes as many sequels as Laura did!
Available through the Bridges Library System