Let 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.
Something I read (I can’t remember where now) said there was some controversy that Rose “stole” this story while her mother was writing the Little House series. Wikipedia says, “Young Pioneers (as ‘Let the Hurricane Roar’) was first published in 1932 as a serial in The Saturday Evening Post while Laura Ingalls Wilder was writing Farmer Boy as a following novel to her Little House in the Big Woods which had already been published. Lane’s ‘Hurricane‘ was also published as a novel in 1932.” If I remember correctly from my reading last year, I think Little House in the Big Woods and Farmer Boy were the only books Laura originally planned on writing, and she continued on after public interest grew in the stories. If that’s correct, Rose’s use of the story was not a
“theft” if her mother wasn’t intending at that time to use it. I’ll have to see if I can locate that information.
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.
(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)