Several generations of readers have been reared on Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books, books that have achieved a near mythological quality in the American literary imagination. What few people know, however, is that nearly every sentence of those classic books was shaped at the hands of a gifted ghostwriter: Wilder's daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. Over the years, as Laura Ingalls Wilder became a literary phenomenon, her daughter slipped quietly into obscurity. In this biography, William Holtz presents an intimate account of Lane's adventure-filled life as a writer, a daughter and a political theorist. Drawing on her letters and diaries, he traces her life from her own gruelling childhood on the prairie to her final journey overseas, this last trip as a Vietnam War correspondent at the age of 78. After beginning her career as a journalist, Rose Wilder Lane returned to her parents' Rocky Ridge farm in Missouri to aid them in a time of financial difficulty. As the Little House books began to win followers for her mother, Rose Wilder Lane's "editorial" role in them usurped more and more of her time. The secrecy of the collaboration, along with her parents' continued financial dependence on Lane, contributed to an increasingly thorny relationship between mother and daughter. In a tale that should surprise every fan of the Litte House books, Holtz chronicles Lane's painful and humiliating struggle to free herself from the emotional bondage to her mother that plagued her for much of her life. Between intervals with her mother at the farm, Lane continued her work as a journalist and free-lance writer, travelling throughout the United States and to such exotic localities as Albania and Baghdad. She wrote the biographies of Henry Ford, Charlie Chaplin and Jack London. As ghostwriter, she stood behind such figures as Frederick O'Brien and Lowell Thomas as well as her mother. As a political thinker, Lane held fast to a grass-roots libertarian view during the Roosevelt years and beyond, an effort that produced a protege who became a Libertarian presidential candidate in 1976. Rose Wilder Lane left no small legacy. Her silent contribution to the Little House books made them American classics. As a political thinker, she left a small but potent body of work that still stands as an inspiration for contemporary civil libertarians. In "The Ghost in the Little House", William Holtz reveals the passionate life of a singularly gifted woman struggling to find a centre of meaning in her life.
University of Missouri Press
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