In 1928, Rose Wilder Lane—world traveler, journalist, much-published magazine writer—returned from an Albanian sojourn to her parents’ Ozark farm. Almanzo Wilder was 71, Laura 61, and Rose felt obligated to stay and help. To make life easier, she built them a new home, while she and Helen Boylston transformed the farmhouse into a rural writing retreat and filled it with visiting New Yorkers. Rose sold magazine stories to pay the bills for both households, and despite the subterranean tension between mother and daughter, life seemed good.

Then came the Crash. Rose’s money vanished, the magazine market dried up, and the Depression darkened the nation. That’s when Laura wrote her autobiography, “Pioneer Girl,” the story of growing up in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, on the Kansas prairie, and by the shores of Silver Lake. The rest—the eight remarkable books that followed—is literary history.

But it isn’t the history we thought we knew. For the surprising truth is that Laura’s stories were publishable only with Rose’s expert rewriting. Based on Rose’s unpublished diaries and Laura’s letters, A Wilder Rose tells the true story of the decade-long, intensive, and often troubled collaboration that produced the Little House books—the collaboration that Rose and Laura deliberately hid from their agent, editors, reviewers, and readers.

Why did the two women conceal their writing partnership? What made them commit what amounts to one of the longest-running deceptions in American literature? And what happened in those years to change Rose from a left-leaning liberal to a passionate Libertarian?

In this impeccably researched novel and with a deep insight into the book-writing business gained from her own experience as an author and coauthor, Susan Wittig Albert follows the clues that take us straight to the heart of this fascinating literary mystery.



Kirkus‘ Best Indie Fiction for 2013!

  

 
A Reader’s Guide to A Wilder Rose:
The Facts Behind the Fiction

  
   


Praise for A Wilder Rose


“Albert has written a nuanced, moving and resonant novel about fraught mother-daughter relationships, family obligation and the ways we both inherit and reject the values of our parents… With all of the charm of the Little House series—and the benefit of a sophisticated, adult worldview—Albert’s novel is an absolute pleasure.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

****************

“Albert does an excellent job of bringing historical figures to life in a credible way; her novel is well paced, its characterizations are strong, and the plot is solidly constructed. Readers begin to understand Lane’s personality and mentality, as well as the things that drive her.” —Publishers Weekly starred review

****************

“Rose Wilder Lane deserves to be fully recognized for her co-authorship of the Little House books. Susan Wittig Albert does that, and more, in a compelling and well-researched novel that accurately recreates Lane’s complex and troubled relationship with her mother during the dark days of the Depression and the Dirty Thirties. A revealing behind-the-scenes look into a literary deception that has persisted for decades.” —William Holtz, author of The Ghost in the Little House: A Life of Rose Wilder Lane

****************

“Heavily based on the extensive Laura Ingalls Wilder-Rose Wilder Lane papers, A Wilder Rose expertly fleshes out the bond between mother and daughter. The novel is a fine study in personalities, an accurate depiction of time and place, and a thorough understanding of the birth of the Little House books.” —William Anderson, author of Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Biography

****************

“Albert has written a compelling novel that lays out a very plausible version of the events leading to each of the Little House books. Both Laura and Rose are fully created characters, with complex motivations that—here’s the main point—make sense. There is not a single wrong note in the creation of this novel. It all makes sense. The book itself is a joy to read. The descriptions are lyrical and perfect, and the setting comes to life. The characters are fully formed. Rose is a complex and talented woman, and her interests in politics and love as well as writing are interwoven expertly… An amazingly engrossing story.” —Janet Spaeth, author of Laura Ingalls Wilder
[Read more]

****************

“Just as Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, did in constructing the Little House novels, Susan Wittig Albert in A Wilder Rose fictionalizes history in a way that helps readers better understand the thoughts, emotions, and desires that motivated and energized them and the people surrounding them. She reopens the controversy over who deserves primary credit for the Little House series while at the same time she engagingly and persuasively reimagines the conflicted mother-daughter relationship, the challenges posed to people by the Depression, and the often heated political atmosphere of the 1930s.” —John E. Miller, author of Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder and Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane

****************

A Wilder Rose is a compelling depiction of one of the most significant literary collaborations of the 20th century. That the two people involved were mother and daughter adds to its complexity and human interest.” —Anita Claire Fellman, author of Little House, Long Shadow: Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Impact on American Culture

****************

A Wilder Rose smoothly blends fact and fiction, solving a literary mystery while bringing to life the touching and complex relationship of Laura Ingalls Wilder of Little House on the Prairie fame and her accomplished daughter and unsung collaborator, Rose. A beautifully written, vivid, and compelling story by one of today’s finest writers—a splendid novel for everyone who has loved the Little House books, for all mothers and daughters, and for writers who will see their craft lovingly displayed.” —Carolyn Hart, award-winning author of Ghost Gone Wild

Praise from reviewers


“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.” —Amy Khron, Revision 3

****************

“The tense but loving relationship that arose from [the Wilder/Lane] collaboration is artfully depicted by Albert, whose elegant prose and evident fascination with the characters and time period make for an unexpected page-turner. If you are drawn to stories of mothers and daughters, the creative process, identity, or the first few decades of the 20th century, this one’s for you.” —David Bowles, “Top Shelf,” The Monitor

Praise from NetGalley reviewers


“A fascinating book…reads like non-fiction and as such seems entirely credible. It is a compelling account not only of the genesis of the Little House books, but also as a picture of Depression-era America and as an account of Rose’s life. Very enjoyable and informative.”

****************

“One of the best parts of the book is the description of life during the Depression and … the early years of the New Deal. The daily life of farmers caught in these difficult times coupled with the incredible heat and dust storms is frightening. I highly recommend this book if only for this picture of the Plains during these difficult years. If you loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, you’ll love this intimate portrait of her and her daughter Rose.”

****************

A Wilder Rose is a fascinating, lively account of several years in Rose’s life and includes a wealth of historical facts about the Depression as background… I also read the Reader’s guide made available by the author which presents the facts behind the author’s fictional account of Rose’s life. I love author’s notes that often follow the end of a historical novel and this separate companion guide is wonderful! It is as interesting to read as the novel and provides additional facts about Rose, Laura, Almanzo, and the times in which they lived.”

****************

“The author carefully interweaves with her story the complex friends and lovers of Rose, which are as absorbing as the pioneer story of her mother. This novel may be uncomfortable for the devotees of the books and television show, but is extremely rewarding for those who have inquiring minds.”