Creative Non-Ficion / Memoir / Travel
Date Published: Paperback out this March / eBook November 2014
Publisher: University of Missouri Press
Nancy McCabe, who grew up in Kansas just a few hours from the Ingalls family’s home in Little House on the Prairie, always felt a deep connection with Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House series. McCabe read Little House on the Prairie during her childhood and visited Wilder sites around the Midwest with her aunt when she was thirteen. But then she didn’t read the series again until she decided to revisit in adulthood the books that had so influenced her childhood. It was this decision that ultimately sparked her desire to visit the places that inspired many of her childhood favorites, taking her on a journey that included stops in the Missouri of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Minnesota of Maud Hart Lovelace, the Massachusetts of Louisa May Alcott, and even the Canada of Lucy Maud Montgomery.
From Little Houses to Little Women reveals McCabe’s powerful connection to the characters and authors who inspired many generations of readers. Traveling with McCabe as she rediscovers the books that shaped her and ultimately helped her to forge her own path, readers will enjoy revisiting their own childhood favorites as well.
From Chapter 11
“I can’t even count how many times I’ve read Little Women,” Aunt Shirley had said one day during our Laura Ingalls Wilder tour. We’d been sitting at a Formica table in a diner in De Smet, SD. A fan whirred in the window while I ate my usual grilled cheese sandwich and rippled potato chip lunch out of a red basket.
“Me neither,” Jody said, sipping her unsweetened ice tea, smugly, I thought. Jody was special. She had been named Jo after Jo March, which made me extremely jealous. Not only that, but she was once diagnosed with scarlet fever, such a cool, literary disease, the one that had led to the stroke that blinded Mary Ingalls and triggered the rheumatic fever that resulted in congestive heart failure in the case of Lizzie Alcott, the model for Little Women’s Beth.[i] Of course, by the late twentieth century, Jody could just feel all literary, take some antibiotics, and be done with it.
. . . .Maybe it was wise that, that day in South Dakota, I kept quiet about my mixed feelings toward Little Women. As Aunt Shirley and Jody talked about it, I became exceptionally absorbed in peeling off the part of my bread that, placed too close to the pickle, was now stained green.
“Have you even read it?” Aunt Shirley turned her attention to me.
“Yes,” I answered in the most indignant tone I could muster.
“You didn’t like it, though.” Aunt Shirley dismissed me.
“I did, too,” I protested, but she and Jody shook their heads as if they had seen right through me.
Nancy McCabe is the author of four memoirs about travel, books, parenting, and adoption as well as the novel Following Disasters. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Prairie Schooner, Fourth Genre, and many other magazines and anthologies, including In Fact Books’ Oh Baby! True Stories about Conception, Adoption, Surrogacy, Pregnancy, Labor, and Love and McPherson and Company’s Every Father’s Daughter: Twenty-Four Women Writers Remember their Fathers. Her work has received a Pushcart and been recognized on Notable lists in Best American anthologies six times.