This post contains affiliate links. I heard about Bright Lights, Prairie Dust by Karen Grassle last year. As soon as I heard about it, I put a request for it at the library. Then I waited, and waited, and waited. The book finally came in a few weeks ago. Sadly, I was disappointed by the book and didn’t even read all of it.
About Bright Lights, Prairie Dust by Karen Grassle
We all know Grassle from her work as Ma, Laura Ingalls’ mom, in the hit television show, Little House on the Praire. I didn’t know her in any other work. I projected her wholesome screen character on the actor, which was a big mistake. Grassle is nothing like ma.
Grassle grew up in California as one of two daughters born to an alcoholic father. Her parents’ relationship was tumultous, which had a significant impact on Grassle.
She herself became an alcoholic. Between her upbringing, her own tendency toward alcoholism, and being a woman in her twenties during the 1960s and women’s liberation, she quickly spiraled. Much of the book about this time in her life was a discussion of the theater work she did, who she dated and slept with, and what alcohol and drugs she consumed. I couldn’t take any more of the tedium, so I skipped ahead 100 pages to her time on Little House on the Prairie.
Her years starring in the hit television series were fraught with tension, disagreements, and sexism. Michael Landon doesn’t sound like the best person to work with. However, with Grassle continually mentioning how she drank too much and took out her frustration on her significant other during the time, I don’t think working with her would have been easy, either.
My Thoughts on the Book
I liked the beginning and end of the book. I appreciated hearing all of the behind the scenes details on The Little House on the Prairie set. I marvel that the show was so wholesome, but behind the scenes, it was anything but.
In the end, I wondered why Grassle wrote this book. I hoped that it was to document her struggle with alcoholism and her eventual path to sobriety, but I’m not sure that was her intention. She ends the book freshly married to her second husband and hoping for children even though she is 40. However, when I googled her life after reading the book, I saw that she didn’t stay married to that husband long and had a third marriage that lasted less than a decade, too.
I give Bright Lights, Prairie Dust 2 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale.
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