Monday, July 23, 2012

The Wilder Life (with Discussion Questions)

When I heard that a young woman had decided to relive her childhood love of Little House on the Prairie, I knew I had to read it! I asked for it as a gift for my birthday and was lucky enough to receive it. Then, when I offered to host my book club's July rendez-vous, I had to select a book. Since we haven't done a lot of non-fiction, and since I hoped this one would be entertaining and engaging, I chose it. The last non-fiction work we read was Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and while this remains one of the most interesting books I have ever read, I was looking for something lighthearted. Enter Wendy McClure's The Wilder Life.

I thought this book was definitely entertaining - McClure's writing style was salty and made me laugh. I was anticipating that the theme would be more about how odd and interesting these sites were, rather than focused on the degree to which you cannot, in fact, go home again. I'm glad to have read this book and I would probably recommend it, with the tiny caveat that it deals with some unexpectedly heavy stuff regarding loss of a parent.

Because I chose this book for my book club, I was tasked with leading the discussion. Ordinarily, I would just quickly google some discussion questions, as do all the other members of the club when its their turn to host. I guess I should have thought of this before, but questions definitely weren't available. I spent some time writing my own bakers dozen discussion questions, based on my memories of the book and some reviews by other bloggers. I hope these will come in handy for some other book club!

1. Wendy McClure articulates the importance of the Little House series for her in understanding what it meant to be a girl. Did anyone else feel that way when reading the series? Are there other books that spoke to you about how to be a girl?

2. After reading The Wilder Life, do you think Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her book series to appeal only to girls? If not, who was her target audience?

3. Were you a Laura, a Mary, or a Nellie as a child? How about today?

4. Is there a series of books or on television whose characters you think of as though you knew them?
The Little House series had an emphasis on simplicity that seems appealing to some Christian people, based on those Wendy encountered on her journey. Wendy expresses that those people think simplicity is something to strive for. Does Wendy’s work, or the series, indicate whether Laura actually advocated simplicity or whether she was merely attempting to make the best of difficult circumstances?

5. What did Wendy learn from her interaction with the “End Time Revelationers”?  Do you agree with her conclusion that Laura would not have appreciated their doomsday mentality?

6. One theme that seems to appear in this book is the loss of youthful wonderment. What situations did Wendy describe that illustrated her loss of wonder? Have you ever experienced anything similar?

7. Were you disappointed that Wendy seemed oblivious to just difficult Laura’s circumstances must have been? Or by the fact that she never seems to relate to Ma and Pa, as fellow adults?

8. Is Wendy’s description of the prairie more negative than Laura’s descriptions? Is Wendy fearful of the prairie as compared to Laura’s wonder?

9. To what degree is the sense of disorientation Wendy encounters during her journey based on the incredible pace of cultural change in the last 150 years?

10. Is it odd that McClure doesn’t comment on the differences in the ways she and Laura acquired homesteading skills? The contrast there is rather striking. 

11. Is this book about travel? Is this book one of the few that portrays the empty and lonely side of travel?

12. To what degree is Wendy’s emphasis on place misguided? Does she feel more connected to Laura when she’s churning butter in her apartment, or when she’s standing at Walnut Grove? Does this tell us something about memory and nostalgia?

13. What do you think of McClure’s writing style? What might Laura have thought of it? How about Rose?

 Happy Reading and Discussing!

1 comment:

  1. We're doing The Wilder Life for our club now and your questions are a great jumping off place!!! Thank you.