I honestly cannot remember having this book as a kid, much less actually reading it. Now, admittedly there were a couple of Little House books I didn’t have (My mother did not buy me the complete set so I had to secure mine piece meal style) and a couple I didn’t read all the way through. I’m sure there was a part of me that thought the books were going to be just like the TV show and when they weren’t, I was bummed out. That being said, now that I made this vow to re-read the books over the summer…so far, this one isn’t among my favorites.
My first problem with By the Shores of Silver Lake is the fact that Pa has uprooted the family yet again to go off and live in some railroad camp at the behest of his brother and sister-in-law. While I know that historically, Charles Ingalls was more or less a free spirit who didn’t like to settle down, as an adult in her 40s I see this as a bit irresponsible. Why was this guy so darn restless and will he ever find contentment anywhere?
Of course middle child Laura is totally up for the move, but that’s Laura’s style. It’s obvious that she is crazy about her father and would do anything for him but in Silver Lake it’s plain to see that Laura is growing up. She is no longer a tomboy but in the beginning stages of being a young woman helping to care for the household which now includes Grace and taking care of Mary who has been struck blind as a result of a bout with Scarlet fever. (I can’t help thinking that this news comes as a bit of a jolt at the beginning of this book and it seems like there might have been a 10th Little House book in those plot points alone.)
Laura isn’t as naive as she once was and it shows in the writing of this book. While the narrative is still simple…it’s not innocent. Laura knows more than she used to and it’s not as carefree. She’s entered that awkward stage of life where she is no longer a child but not yet a full-grown woman and at 13, you can’t get away with as much as you used to. Silver Lake is still classic Little House, but I don’t have the same connection to the book as I do the others I’ve read so far. Perhaps this is because I can’t connect them to the TV show (Mary’s illness was covered over 2 whole episodes) or perhaps it is the fact that I am wondering why Ma has not yet given birth to Charles Fredrick (who will eventually die.) There is the heart wrenching scene in which Jack dies which nods to a certain episode in the TV series, but that only makes me feel sad rather than nostalgic. Still…true to my word, I can now say that I have read it and I am sure others will enjoy it more than I do.