Creative Non-Ficion / Memoir / Travel
Date Published: Paperback out this March / eBook November 2014
Publisher: University of Missouri Press
Nancy McCabe, who grew up in Kansas just a few hours from the Ingalls family’s home in Little House on the Prairie, always felt a deep connection with Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House series. McCabe read Little House on the Prairie during her childhood and visited Wilder sites around the Midwest with her aunt when she was thirteen. But then she didn’t read the series again until she decided to revisit in adulthood the books that had so influenced her childhood. It was this decision that ultimately sparked her desire to visit the places that inspired many of her childhood favorites, taking her on a journey that included stops in the Missouri of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Minnesota of Maud Hart Lovelace, the Massachusetts of Louisa May Alcott, and even the Canada of Lucy Maud Montgomery.
From Little Houses to Little Women reveals McCabe’s powerful connection to the characters and authors who inspired many generations of readers. Traveling with McCabe as she rediscovers the books that shaped her and ultimately helped her to forge her own path, readers will enjoy revisiting their own childhood favorites as well.
From Chapter Four
The healing powers of girls’ book heroines, the dazzling competence of Pa Ingalls, combined anew in the character of Nancy Drew. Nothing fazed her. If someone at a neighboring table choked on raw steak, she paused from tracing clues to administer the Heimlich, add a delicious marinade to the meat, and fire up her portable grill to ensure that it was fully cooked. If Nancy’s boyfriend Ned discovered a message in Hieroglyphics, Nancy darted over to translate it—into French by way of Swahili. If her car overheated, Nancy purchased a new thermostat and installed it herself, substituting roadside sticks and rocks for more conventional tools. If Nancy’s slacks ripped while she was camping on a mountainside, she whipped out her sewing kit and stitched up a pair of new pants from tent cloth. So maybe these are exaggerations of Nancy’s prowess—but not by much.
Nancy was the original Barbie, thin and stylish and endlessly versatile, capable of assuming a new role with each new outfit, a short cultural leap to Newborn Baby Doctor Barbie, Aerospace Engineer Barbie, Sea World Trainer Barbie, and Beach Party Barbie. . . .[Nancy] was effortlessly attractive, kind, and skillful, and we were repeatedly told how modest she was, even though she was always introducing herself by saying things like, “I’m Nancy Drew. My father is Carson Drew, the attorney.” Those words smacked to me of privilege and entitlement, an expectation that everyone should have heard of and been impressed by her father.
Sharing her first name called attention to all that I could not live up to. In contrast to the young sleuth, I was shy and awkward, and my world felt out of my control. In real life, modesty and shyness came down to the same thing, rendering me invisible. Nancy got away with so much; it wasn’t fair. She observed the faint sound of crickets on a pirated recording and concluded that it had been made at Pudding Stone Lodge because you could hear crickets there at night. I railed at this ludicrous deduction: where couldn’t you hear crickets at night?
My concept of how the world worked, with God in his heaven, the righteous vindicated, and truth and justice prevailing, was beginning to erode.
About the Author
Nancy McCabe is the author of four memoirs about travel, books, parenting, and adoption as well as the novel Following Disasters. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Prairie Schooner, Fourth Genre, and many other magazines and anthologies, including In Fact Books’ Oh Baby! True Stories about Conception, Adoption, Surrogacy, Pregnancy, Labor, and Love and McPherson and Company’s Every Father’s Daughter: Twenty-Four Women Writers Remember their Fathers. Her work has received a Pushcart and been recognized on Notable lists in Best American anthologies six times.