In the fifth book of the series, Laura and her family move west for the very last time, following the railroad and the lure of free land from the government. The book chronicles the family’s move, Pa’s time as a paymaster/shopkeeper for the railroad, and daily life living in the growing and, at times, dangerous town of De Smet as Pa decides where to stake his land claim.
The Ingalls ended up permanently settling in De Smet, South Dakota (then the Dakota Territory), and Laura would live there until 1894 when she, her husband (the main character in Farmer Boy), and their daughter moved to Missouri.
I remember thinking this book to be rather interesting the first few times I read it because of (a) Mary’s blindness and (b) the development of the town of De Smet. Now, however, I really struggled to connect with this book and find the same feelings it used to bring me. I know I said I thought On the Banks of Plum Creek to be the weakest of the books, but I am eating my words after reading this one. The book is extremely transitional, and it reads like a series of stories rather than one cohesive story with a climax, a resolution, and an exciting storyline.
Laura has to take on the role of being the eyes for her older sister, narrating their journey and daily life around them. I thought the conflict between her and Mary over the proper way to “see” boiled down to simple sibling rivalry and the annoyance an older sibling feels towards a younger and vice versa at times.. Now, I see that the difference lies in the fundamental differences between the sisters. Mary is very analytical and wants things described to her as they are whereas Laura truly is a writer. She tries to inject emotions and metaphors and abstract thoughts into her descriptions.
- A Literary Odyssey (Books 1 – 5)
- Wilder, Laura Ingalls. By the Shores of Silver Lake. New York: Scholastic, 1953. Originally published 1939. 291 pgs. ISBN: 9780590488143. Source: Purchased.
- Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Farmer Boy. New York: Scholastic, 1953. Originally published 1933. Print. 372 pgs. ISBN: 0590488163. Source: Purchased.
- Wilder, Laura Ingalls. On the Banks of Plum Creek. New York: Scholastic, 1953. Originally published 1937. Print. 339 pgs. ISBN: 0590488155. Source: Purchased.