Wednesday, July 05, 2006

On the Shores of Silver Lake

Laura Ingalls Wilder
Memoir, Children's

On the Shores of Silver Lake starts with an odd jump. The characters are all a few years older, and they appear to have had a hard time in the interim. There's a new baby, Grace, but older sister Mary is now blind, from scarlet fever, we are told. (Apparently, her blindness was in fact due to the long term results of other illnesses, and she had a stroke, but the scarlet fever was a convenient excuse.) In truth, Laura was unwilling to relate the years in between On the Banks of Plum Creek and this book, as they had to move to Iowa, where Ma fell very ill, and where a baby brother was born and died. The gloss is not immediately evident, certainly not to its intended audience, but it is interesting to note that while they'd moved to Iowa, they moved back to the same town in Minnesota as before, where this story begins.

Pa is offered a good job and a chance to start new in the Dakotas. The family, still exhausted from illness, will follow behind on the train, a new experience for them all. In this book, we find out one side effect from Mary's blindness: Laura has to be her "eyes", and the descriptive qualities she develops we know will stand her in good stead later in life when she becomes a writer. It is interesting to note that when the railroad building moves on, and the Ingalls are left behind, while they are alone on the prairie they never seem to be lonely.


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