Saturday, November 7, 2020

"The Long Winter" by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Any time I start to feel like my life is horribly hard, I need to reread this book.  Covid and lockdowns and cancelled plans and no vacations are hard, yeah... but I'm not watching my kids slowly starve.  I'm not twisting hay into sticks to keep my house just warm enough so that my family can starve instead of freeze to death.  I'm not facing down day after day of numbing misery while trying to keep the spirits of my children from faltering.

I can barely imagine the kind of fortitude.  I don't think anyone in this country really can anymore.

I read this aloud to my husband and kids this fall.  My husband has never read these books, and he's more engrossed in them than my kids are.  That makes it extra fun for me as a reader :-)

Particularly Good Bits:

"We wouldn't do much if we didn't do things that nobody ever heard of before" (p. 32).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G.  Although the subject matter is heavy, it's written in a non-scary way.


This is my 8th book read for my third Classics Club list.

14 comments:

  1. Such a book for perspective. I have been craving these books again all year. I should have been reading them, but I may just do it next year. I thought about The Long Winter when I went to the grocery store back in March, and the shelves were WIPED OUT! Rachel, there was no meat, no produce, no bread!!!! Only the yucky jelly was left on the shelves. So I thought, "What would Ma do???" Yeah, this is a great lesson. And I always tell you how I think it's awesome that your husband wants to listen. I just tell my husband about Charles, and he is at least that intrigued.

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    1. Ruth, exactly. It really helps put things in perspective.

      We had a lot of empty food shelves here too in March and continuing through April. My husband and I were glad we are creative cooks, because it was like, "Well, I could get pork hocks, French-cut green beans, and pickled beets... I can make something with that." Rather like Ma Ingalls using a little salted fish to make multiple meals, or making a pie from green pumpkins.

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  2. I remembering reading and re reading this one a lot, and I will never forget the twisting of the hay. We have a lot to be thankful for.

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    1. Skye, YES! Twisting the hay and grinding wheat in the coffee grinder have stuck with me all my life. We are so blessed by comparison.

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  3. For perspective, I think of WWII and what it was really like. And then I get angry when people compare now to WWII. We are so pampered we can't see straight.

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    1. Livia, yes! I think there ARE some comparisons to the home front of WWII, such as everyone needing to follow new rules (wear masks! ration gasoline!) or having to be careful not to hog things so other people can have some too (don't buy more than one package of toilet paper! make do with less so the soldiers will have more!). But clearly, no one in this country has had to do without as many things as people did then.

      I also have been thinking about the Great Depression, when not only were people without the means to buy enough food, but there literally wasn't enough of some things because the Dust Bowl destroyed so many crops.

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  4. I remember not enjoying this one at first. Mainly because it was so long, but now that I look back it has some great content. How these people managed to survive in such extreme circumstances in astounding.

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    1. Ivy Miranda, yeah, I remember not liking it as a kid because it does go on and on, and it's not fun. But wow, I appreciated it a ton now.

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  5. I read this one last month in my Little House re-read and... I got cold. Reading it in August. I don't know that as a child, I really realized how close they were to starving, but it hit me like a ton of bricks as an adult. Especially that line about Pa having hollows in his cheeks, and Almanzo's brother commenting that they were "starving." I have fasted before, and I know what it is like to go hungry, to be weak from not eating -- and I cannot imagine starving slowly for MONTHS.

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    1. Charity, me too! I would get goosebumps and shiver while reading it! I think when I was a kid, I found this one boring because the winter drags on so long, and not much fun happens. Now I see what great writing it has, to really make you feel that numbness of body and mind. I definitely didn't realize they were starving, as a kid. But now, wow. The lethargy? The inability to think clearly? Pa's hollow cheeks? It must have been terrifying.

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    2. It certainly aroused feelings in me -- mostly anger at their situation, their helplessness, the inability of the railroad to get through to deliver anything to them, that they kind of were forced to leave an entire community to starve for months! But yes, it's a long, tough read. Especially when they were so numb with starvation and boredom that all they could really do was climb out of bed, twist a few hay sticks, and then climb back into bed after having one wrinkled potato. Really makes me grateful that, for the most part, I can get what I need and won't freeze to death this winter. And if I remember right, they never complained about it. The one time Carey said something, Laura told her to hush. Being silent about one's suffering... that is a lost art!

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    3. Charity, yes! My kids got so frustrated with the train for not reaching them. I had to remind you that they were trying, they just couldn't get through. Technology cannot beat the elements sometimes.

      Yes, so little complaining. Someone would say something about their head hurting or being tired of eating the same thing, and someone else would tell them not to complain, that they still had food and so on. Pa did get angry that one time, though, and yell at the storm that it couldn't beat them, no matter how hard it tried. But that was a sort of triumphant defiance, not complaining.

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  6. This is my favorite of the series!!! I love it!!

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    1. Katie, it's definitely not my favorite, but I did appreciate it a lot :-)

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