Laura Ingalls Wilder Blockbuster Memoir Reveals Darker Side of 'Little House on the Prairie'

Pam WrightLife

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Laura Ingalls Wilder is remembered by the millions who have read her Little House on the Prairie books as a heroin living in an idyllic world. However, a previously unpublished book reveals a darker side to life on the prairie and is becoming a blockbuster hit for South Dakota Historical Press, the publisher of the memoir.

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, edited by Pamela Smith Hill, was released in November by the small state-owned publishing house.

Laura Ingalls Wilder's autobiography details her life in the country, but paints a far less idyllic picture of life on the prairie, with tales of domestic abuse, messy love triangles and even a drunk man who apparently lit himself on fire.

Wilder and her daughter tried publishing the autobiography in the early 1930s, but they were unsuccessful after publishers were less than convinced that anyone would want to read the flip-side of the Ingalls' family life on the prairie.

When Laura Ingalls Wilder died in 1957, the original draft was saved at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri, until the South Dakota State Historical Society was finally able to publish the book.

Between 1932 and 1943, Laura Ingalls Wilder published 11 novels in the Little House on the Prairie series, which were adapted into a 1970s TV show.

The memoir was the No. 1 best-seller on Amazon.com in late January and was still in the Top 10 on Friday, at No. 6.

Pam Wright