First sentence: Caroline's wrist turned and flicked as the steel tongue of her crochet hook dipped in and out, mirroring the movement of the fiddle's bow.
Premise/plot: Sarah Miller's Caroline retells the story of Little House on the Prairie through the eyes of Ma Ingalls. The novel opens with Charles telling Caroline the news: they're going to Kansas. She has news of her own: she's pregnant. Mary and Laura are kept in the distance, in the background. At the forefront in this one is what Caroline is thinking and feeling.
Much of the plot will be familiar to readers, but not in particulars. Laura fictionalized her family's experience. There are scenes that take on new layers when you realize that Ma was either pregnant or nursing a newborn.
My thoughts: I wanted to love, love, love this one. I didn't quite. I found it interesting and thought-provoking. Caroline's portrayal makes her more human in many ways. She's introspective. She has fears, worries, doubts. She submits to her husband though she has opinions--strong opinions at times. She has insecurities and weaknesses. She doesn't always know what to say, what to do, how to manage. She's very much in control--on the outside--but on the inside, she struggles. One thing that is hard to relate to with Caroline is the fact that she isn't one for showing her emotions or openly sharing her thoughts and feelings.
One reason I didn't love, love, love this one is because I had absolutely no desire to read of Charles and Caroline's sex life. I did not want to be behind-the-scenes in a flashback to their wedding night. And I wasn't thrilled with the two other scenes either. (One being after spending the day fighting fires. The other being to cheer Pa up when they had to leave Kansas and go back to Wisconsin.)
I found it disconcerting as well. Here we have the first three hundred pages relatively clean (minus a few glances from Pa that made Ma blush because she knew what he was thinking). She often comforts herself with Bible verses: Scripture calms her fears, quiets her anxieties. How often in books do you find characters dwelling on Scripture?!
I know there's just a small minority of us in the world that value clean books free of descriptive, graphic adult scenes. I'm fine with being in the minority. I just wish this book hadn't gone there so graphically.
At once Caroline saw that it did not matter what she did, so long as she was there for them to cling to. Their trust in her was built of thousands upon thousands of moments already past. She was Ma, and that in itself was enough. (73)
Real or imagined, she needed some mark to aim toward, and what better place than a house? A home. She wanted to be able to see it in her mind, to picture herself inside it as she had not dared to do since Charles informed her they would be leaving the furniture behind. If she could do that, Charles might stop the wagon anywhere he pleased, and she could pin that vision of home to the map. 63
The children were like little tops that must be kept spinning, always spinning. And on Sunday they must spin slowly, quietly, without tipping. (95)
This once, she would not mind strange faces looking at her. What would they see in her, she wondered, what would the people of Independence expect of a woman come to claim a quarter section with her husband? Perhaps she would surprise them. Perhaps she would surprise herself. (136)
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews