I remember this book as the most depressing, frustrating one in the series. Finally I forced myself, and you know, this is one of those books that improve when you actually know what happens in the previous books.
Silver Lake features the Ingalls family of course, but the main character here is change.
The girls are older, there are railroads being built, men working on them, and wild cousins cooking meals. We really get a feel for the mass migration west in that era.
When we meet up with the Ingalls family calamity has fallen in Plum Creek again. Everyone is sick except Laura and Pa, and poor Mary has gone blind. The farm hasn’t done well, and they’re in debt. Pa’s solution, of course, is to leave his wife and girls so he can work on the railroad in the west. It’s time to move again.
Poor Ma. She’s sick, Mary is blind, and there’s a new baby named Grace to take care of. Still she has to pack up the house, and get herself and the girls out west to meet Pa. It just seems so awful for her, but of course we never hear her complain.
From there everything is an adventure. Laura’s first railroad trip is scary and exciting, and the town waiting for the family on the other end is like nowhere they’ve lived before. Young girls are expected to work all day washing dishes, cooking, and running errands for their mothers while men work on the railroads. Some end up getting married as early as thirteen.
Morals play a large part in the early Little House books, but in Silver Lake not everything is so black and white.
Laura’s Uncle Hi steals from the store he was to be keeping, but Pa says it’s okay. Men drink and turn violent. Mr. Edwards comes back and starts a fight just so Pa can file on his land.
Things are rougher, but we have Mary to constantly nag Laura when she’s out of line. Even though she’s blind, Mary always knows when Laura is about to fidget or isn’t wearing her sun bonnet. It must be a good feeling to grow up and write books where you can turn your prissy older sister into the person no one ever wants to talk to at a party.
This book is filled with new beginnings, but we also see some endings.
Laura and Carrie see what might be the last buffalo wolf in those parts, and the buffaloes themselves are already long gone.
The family finally catches a break when the surveyor lets them stay in his tidy, well-built, and fully stocked house for the winter. We readers get the Christmas scene we’re used to, complete with a visit from a new neighbor and popcorn. I swear, this book makes popcorn sound so good. I had to make myself a big pot on the stove top after I read it. If you haven’t done that in a while, I suggest you curl up with a Little House book this winter and try. Ma tells up hunger is the best sauce, but melted butter is pretty good too.
Change brings the railroad, and the railroad brings settlers. Pa is afraid he won’t be able to claim the piece of land he has his eyes on, but he does.
This book started with change, and ended with hope.
We have hope that things will finally go right for this family, and that Ma can finally settle in somewhere and get some peace.
Pick up a copy of any of the Little House books using this link and we make pennies!