Caroline

Caroline

Packing stinks.

Wrapping up all your things, cushioning breakables, putting things where you won’t find them for months. Ugh. Is it worth it to have a new home? A new life? As in “Caroline: Little House, Revisited” by Sarah Miller, is the sacrifice worth a new beginning you’re not sure you want?

She loved him so.

Looking at her husband, Charles, Caroline Ingalls saw the light in his face as he spoke. She knew he’d heard that the government was selling Kansas farmland at reasonable prices, just as she knew how he wanted that, and an adventure. His eyes told her that he also wanted her permission, and she loved him too much to say no.

She hadn’t informed him yet that their family would increase by one, come summer. She barely knew it herself, and she couldn’t imagine giving birth without family nearby. Still, she could never deny her husband his hearts’ desire, so she said yes to making plans, to packing their belongings in a canvas-topped wagon, to estimate what supplies they might need for their travels. They’d depart from Wisconsin in late winter, when the river was still frozen solid. They would be in Kansas by mid-summer.

It was cold when they started: five-year-old Mary and three-year-old Laura needed mittens until they reached the southern part of Iowa. Caroline’s own quilts ensured the girls’ comfort; supper often came from an open-pit fire. They might go days without seeing anyone but each other and oh, how Caroline missed her sister! She missed her little cookstove, the rocker that Charles made for her when Mary was born, and the feel of solid floorboards. She missed everything there was to miss about Wisconsin, but the state was weeks behind her.

In front of her was a promise, and a husband who sang when he was happy. She imagined a garden, and crops spread beneath a big sky dome, family, new friends, and a new baby. She could also imagine danger.

Remember thrilling to tales from “The Little House on the Prairie”? If you do, then author Sarah Miller has this: there’s another side to the story and in “Caroline,” it’s no less exciting.

At the outset of this novel, you know you’re in for something good. Miller makes this a love story, first: Charles and Caroline Ingalls are sweetly bashful and still courting, even though, as this novel opens, they’ve been married a decade. Caroline adores her husband and her girls, but Miller lets her be flawed: the title character is unsure of herself, prone to seethe silently, and there are times when she briefly wishes she was childless. Truly, that introspection drives this novel as much as does the new world Caroline encounters, making it a perfect addition to a beloved story.

In her afterword, Miller explains how she used Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books to make a “marriage of fact and fiction,” and fans are going to love it. If you grew up devouring “Little House” books, the covers of “Caroline” pack a great story.

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