Melissa Gilbert grew up playing the role of Laura Ingalls in front of millions in the 1970s on Michael Landon’s “Little House on the Prairie.” She was a child superstar, and she is the rare child star who has been able to survive as an actress long after she took the braids out of her famous auburn locks.
In front of the country’s eyes, Melissa seemed to painlessly transcend the role of Laura, playing such meaty roles as Anne Frank and Helen Keller while still in her teens. However, things were not always as peachy as they seemed for young Melissa. In “Prairie Tale,” she reveals early struggles to attain perfection and pretend that things were great even when they didn’t feel so great. As the breadwinner for her family in elementary school, Melissa experienced the loss of her father as a child, and she has experienced many trials that are detailed in the book.
It should be said that this book is definitely not for child fans of Laura. Melissa has lived a full life, and she includes tales of her sexual experiences in the book. It’s definitely not pornographic in any way, shape or form, but it isn’t for kids. There is also the “f” word and other colorful language used in the book. It’s done so in a way that goes with the flow and style of the writing.
What’s fantastic about “Prairie Tale” is that it covers the first forty years of Melissa’s life, yet it never drags. In fact, perhaps it’s dual flaw and strong point is that it leaves you wanting more. Fans of “Little House on the Prairie” like myself are given a great deal on the show, yet it’s not the focus of the book, not should it be. Melissa’s life has been full, and it makes for a very interesting read.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking point of the book is when it’s revealed that not every cast member of the Ingalls family got along as wonderfully as they seemed to do onscreen. I won’t give it away, but it should also be said that the actress who played Laura’s infamous nemesis was actually one of her best friends in real life. One more hint: a star of both “Little House on the Prairie” and “90210” shared way more aspects of her life than Melissa wanted.
In short, I highly recommend this book to anybody who was a fan of “Little House on the Prairie” or someone who is interested in the path of a child star in Hollywood. It’s also a tale of surviving and overcoming an addictive pattern. It’s a very compelling read, one I couldn’t put down until it was done.
Find The Prairie Tale: a Memoir it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Borders.com
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RobinRaven Sunday, December 27th, 2009
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