Last week, I went shopping. Thrift store shopping, if we’re being specific. Thrift stores are lovely because you can find everything, anything—or nothing, depending on the day. I thoroughly enjoy browsing through several different stores in a single trip, perusing their bookshelves in search of something I don’t already own. It’s a treasure hunt, one that can end in nothing or everything.
Last week, it ended with Little House in Brookfield.
I grew up listening to my parents read The Little House on the Prairie books out loud to me and my siblings. The stories of Laura Ingalls and her family are intrinsic parts of my childhood, stories I’ve been listening to—and reading—for as long as I can remember.
Little House in Brookfield is almost as embedded in my mind. The story, instead of being written by and about Laura Ingalls Wilder, is instead about her mother, Carolina Quiner. This book, and the others in this series, are based on a collection of letters written to Laura by her aunt Martha, Ma’s sister. The research done by Maria Wilkes brilliantly recreates Ma’s childhood in Brookfield, Wisconsin.
Although written with the same simple, charming style as The Little House in the Prairie, Carolina Quiner’s childhood was very different from her daughter’s. Her father, Henry Quiner, was lost at sea when she was four years old. For her mother, grandmother, and four siblings, life is a constant struggle to keep their farm running, their family together, and enough food on the table.
As frustrating and difficult as such an uphill climb is for this small family, they still manage to face every day with an amazing amount of cheerfulness and faith. Ma’s steadying presence and silent strength is a cornerstone of the Little House series, and it is easy to see where that strength and character was developed. Her own mother is a rock in their home, despite dealing with the grief of losing her husband and the struggle of providing for a family alone. The kindness of a stranger, the help of old friends, and the prudence of a woman able to make something out of nothing keeps their family afloat. Old dresses are made new, toes show through the scuffed leather of shoes that are old and worn, and flour becomes a luxury they are not sure they can afford, and yet, life continues. Christmas is celebrated, birthdays are somehow made special, and family grows strong through the hardships.
Little House in Brookfield is a beautifully written story of love, hardship, and triumph. If you have loved the Little House books as much as I have, cherished them through your childhood and treasured them as long favorites, this is definitely a book for you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Each time they came to the mill, she wished she could climb up a pile of grain and touch the ceiling right before she slipped down the other side of the pile and skidded to the floor in a rush of barley, corn, oats, or wheat.