Wednesday, October 17, 2012

By the Shores of Silver Lake, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Also known as, "The Ingalls Family Finally Catches a Break."  Although you wouldn't know it from the beginning of the book.  It starts off with the Ingalls family utterly exhausted and weak- they're barely recovering from a bout of Scarlet Fever, which left Mary blind.  The family had barely managed to remain solvent until they were struck with illness, and now they have no idea how the doctor will be paid.  But up the road comes good news- Aunt Docia, whom they haven't seen since they lived in Wisconsin in Little House in the Big Woods times.  She and Uncle Hi are headed to Dakota Territory to work in the railroad camps, and are offering Pa a salary of $50/month to come and be their bookkeeper/storekeeper.

Since farming on Plum Creek has been more or less a failure for several years, Pa sells the house and ties up loose ends.  And so the family heads west once again!  Laura has a great time getting to know her cousin Lena, who teaches her how to ride (and race!) horses.  And once the camp has disbanded for the winter, the Ingallses are offered the use of the Surveyor's house.  It's been fully stocked with provisions, and this means the family wouldn't have to backtrack eastward before coming back to make a claim in the Spring.

Once Spring arrives, the settlers come, too.  Before they know it, their house is full of boarders, since it's the only suitable shelter around and the next best thing to a hotel.  Pa is out registering at the claim office, and Mr. and Mrs. Boast are able to help a bit, but otherwise, the women are on their own until the town suddenly springs up and the Surveyor's house is empty once again.  Soon it's time to move out to Pa's tiny claim shanty, and begin their new life as homesteaders!

This book leaves me feeling a lot more optimistic about the future of this little family.  Although it's tricky; Pa's main plan is usually farming, and farming is always a mixed bag.  I hope I'm not being a spoiler when I mention here that later in the series, Laura states her strong conviction that she will never marry a farmer and spend her life in that kind of instability again, and I don't blame her in the least. 


  1. Of note: Lena recognized herself in this book, and wrote a letter to Laura. I love this.

    Also: This book is one of my favorites of the series - they're so COZY in the surveyor's house! And playing on the frozen lake in the middle of the night, and seeing the wolf... magical.

  2. But I don't love that Laura never wrote her back! Why? WHY??