Book Review: Let the Hurricane Roar

Let the Hurricane RoarLet the Hurricane Roar by Rose Wilder Lane, daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, is also published as Young Pioneers. In some versions the characters are named Molly and David: in others they are Charles and Caroline. The events are based on the same events covered in Laura’s book On the Banks of Plum Creek, though some details have been changed.

I had wondered about the title, since hurricanes don’t generally come to the prairie, but the title comes from a hymn.

Molly and David are very young newlyweds (16 and 18) who head west to claim a homestead. Though they live in a little sod house and don’t have many possessions, they are gloriously happy, especially when a good wheat crop grows and they have a baby son. But disaster strikes in the form of a grasshopper plague that destroys the crop. David had borrowed against the lost crop, so he must travel to look for work. Even though neighbors give up and leave in the face of similar difficulties, Molly stays on through a terrible winter so claim jumpers won’t steal their land.

A former pastor used to bestow high compliments on people when he called them “pioneer stock” — sturdy, dependable, strong, not easily swayed. David and Molly would both qualify for this compliment. I am sure I would not! At least not when it comes to living in a dirt house all alone through several blizzards. The book realistically portrays Molly struggle with being alone, wrestling with all of the “what ifs,” and David’s anger over his failure, poor choices (going into debt), and difficult circumstances, rather than portraying them as always smiling and unflappable.

Some of that “pioneer stock” is shown as well in Molly’s attitude when a neighbor complains about hardships, and Molly thinks to herself, “Well, the land isn’t going to feed you with a spoon!” Quite different from the attitude of many today.

I also liked the description at the beginning that Molly “never quite lost the wonder that she, quiet and shy and not very pretty, had won such a man as David. He was laughing and bold [and] daring.”

It’s obvious Rose loved and admired her grandparents, and I am glad she shared this part of their story with us. Part of her goal in writing it was to “inspire Depression-era readers with its themes of resilience in the face of hardship and the strength of the American character” (The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure, p. 168).

Carrie and Amy both reviewed this book last year — in fact, Carrie’s review is where I think I first heard of it. They both focus more on the relationship between Molly and David than I did, but after rereading their reviews as I came to the end of mine, I do remember that that’s part of what drew me to this book, besides its relationship to Laura. Though the book is not written as a romance per se, and as Amy said, Rose writes with restraint, the realities as true love as opposed to “romance novel fiction” shine through it.

The only blight on this novel is that Rose used this information from her mother’s material without her mother’s knowledge or permission. Laura was understandably upset, and they eventually came to terms with it and moved on.

I was originally going to read Farmer Boy next for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge, but since it is Almanzo’s childhood story and doesn’t need to be read in order, I think I am going to read On the Banks of Plum Creek for Laura’s version of the events in this story while this book is still fresh in my mind.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)


15 thoughts on “Book Review: Let the Hurricane Roar

  1. Barbara, the reason many people object to Let the Hurricane Roar is that Rose did indeed take material from her mother to write to novel. Laura had put together memoirs for several years before publishing Little House in the Big Woods, and she had been writing for many magazines (McCall’s, Country Gentleman, etc) for many years, and most notably had kept notes and story ideas for the Missouri Ruralist, where she was an editor with her own column, since 1911. Many anecdotes in the Little House series were first told in Laura’s column or these other magazine pieces. Of course, Rose was a writer who was much more well-known during this period, but she generally wrote non-fiction or occasional short fiction pieces, not novels. It is generally understood from Rose’s own accounts that she struggled with her attempts at writing longer (novel-length) fiction.

    Now, when it comes to the Little House series, you have it correct that originally Laura’s plan was to publish a single volume work. She did this in the 1920s, and it was intended to be geared toward an adult audience. She called it Pioneer Girl and there are 5 known drafts/revisions of it. When she tried to have it published, it was initially rejected, so at the suggestion of a publisher, she re-worked it as a children’s piece and created what became Little House in the Big Woods. Rose didn’t agree with that idea, saying “there is no money” in children’s books. As Laura continued to write, she was not always aware of the content of Rose’s various works in progress, and when Let the Hurricane Roar was published, Laura was already working on the next few books in the series. She was very upset to find that her daughter had used material from Pioneer Girl without consulting her. Laura had planned on using the Pioneer Girl material as she wrote more books, and apparently Rose did not ask to “borrow” these stories for her own publishing.
    There are a few excellent books which discuss this situation if you would like more detail. John E. Miller wrote an excellent biography entitled Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder: The Woman Behind the Legend. This was published for a general audience, and gives more detail about Laura’s life than any other biography to date. For a detailed study of Laura’s writing process and her relationship with Rose, Pamela Smith Hill published Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life,,which examines the entire process of Laura’s publishing career and discusses the issue of Rose’s influence and her “borrowing” Laura’s material at length. Hill is currently compiling, editing, and annotating the various drafts of Pioneer Girl for publication later this year, and I trust it will be an intriguing read!
    I’ve been enjoying your blog. Keep up the great work.
    ~Melanie Stringer

  2. Melanie is accurate in this, as documented in LAURA INGALLS WILDER: A WRITER’S LIFE, which I intend to review as soon as I have time. From Hill’s viewpoint it was a flagrant plagiarism and done without Laura’s knowledge.

  3. Oh, I really appreciated the paragraph talking about whether or not Rose “stole” this story. It’s rather nice to know that she probably didn’t. (And anyway – how easy would it be to make your family stories your own?)

    And I don’t think I would qualify as “pioneer stock” either. 😀

    • I don’t know, Carrie – yes, making family stories your own is an easy thing, but if you knew your mother had already written out the family stories for publication, and that she had more plans to write them out in the future, to take the material and pass it off as your own without even discussing it with your mother? I just read Hill’s book and she presents a compelling case for this.

  4. I think it was in ‘Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder’ that I read that Laura hadn’t authorized Rose to use the story. Wherever Laura was with her intentions for her own writing, it would have been common decency for Rose to make sure it was all right for her to use the family history in that way. I don’t remember all the details, though.

    Hoping you’re doing okay with all that’s going on in your life.

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