“Ma.” A loving presence in her daughters’ lives, but also a pillar of strength, Ma typified the pioneer experience in the Little House books. In Caroline, Ma or Caroline Quiner Ingalls, finally gets the story told from her point of view.
Caroline is basically a retelling of Little House on the Prairie from Ma’s point of view. It encompasses all of the same events, with a few adjustments to adhere more to the historical record.
The story starts in February 1870 when Caroline, Charles, and their daughters, Laura and Mary set off “west” (really more south) to the frontier of Kansas. Charles is intrigued by the idea of the bountiful prairie land, but Caroline is pregnant and unsettled to think about being so far away from family. The novel goes through the hardships of the journey and the building of a new place in Kansas. Caroline has to make do with what she can while she also longs for the safety and familiarity left behind in Wisconsin. Luckily the Ingalls family makes new friends in Kansas.
It was interesting seeing Little House through adult eyes. Most the major events play out the same, although Ma has more fears and reservations in her thoughts than Laura would have pointed out in her children’s point of view. I like how items were updated such as Jack the dog getting purchased along with the horses (I just learned this fact this summer in South Dakota!), Ma having baby Carrie in Kansas instead of Carrie traveling with, and most importantly updating why the Ingalls family had to leave “their” land. In Little House on the Prairie the government forces them off, in Caroline, it was because they had settled actually on Native American land that was not open for settlement. In Caroline they leave as the person who bought their home in Wisconsin defaulted on the mortgage, which is what really happened. Mr. Edwards has never been proven to be real (probably a combination of real people), but I was glad he was kept in Caroline. He is one of my favorite characters, in particular when he saves Christmas.
Truthfully, I enjoyed the novel, but it took me a really long time to read it and get into it. It moved really slowly to me. I think it’s because it really just sticks to the story from Little House on the Prairie, which I had recently read with my daughter, but it’s missing the magic of the original children’s tale. Caroline always seemed stressed out – but I guess who wouldn’t be living on the prairie? I was hoping for more of an original tale – for example more of a story of Caroline’s youth or meeting of Pa. There were glimpses in this novel. There were also scenes of romance between Pa and Ma, which both disturbed me and also gave in to my curiosity. I’ve always wondered about relations in a one room cabin. Ha!!! Caroline is still racist towards Native Americans in this book and there is really a good description of why. I would have liked more of that as the racism always makes me cringe.
I’m a little sad as I highlighted my favorite quotes in the e-book, but my kindle is not showing them. I apologize for not having them in this review. The only quote showing up is this:
“’It’s too much,’ she told him, as she always did. His face told her it wasn’t nearly enough, as it always did.” - I loved the love between Caroline and Charles. Charles is more the dreamer always looking on the bright side, while Caroline is the more practical spouse.
I really enjoyed the author’s note at the end discussing the real history and why she made the changes to the story that she did.
Overall, Caroline was an interesting take on the Little House on the Prairie story from Ma’s point of view. I would recommend it to someone who hasn’t read Little House on the Prairie recently so that you have more of a surprise while reading it.
Book Source: Review Copy from William Morrow – Thanks!!