Almanzo Wilder will eventually become Laura Ingalls’ husband. In Farmer Boy, he is 9/10 years old and works on his family farm in upstate New York. As with the prior two books in the series, this one focuses on ‘a year in the life’.
While still interesting and heart-warming, this installment is my least favorite so far. With the Ingalls family story, the reader always wonders what will happen next and if all will turn out well for them. For the Wilder’s however, things are a little easier. Almanzo’s father is not only a successful farmer but a good businessman. He raises and sells colts ($200 each which was a fortune in that time.) Mrs. Wilder sells her butter, they bale their surplus hay for a profit, etc. Throughout the story we are told of hundreds of dollars put into the bank. At the same time, they seem to have plenty of food including cakes, pies, popcorn, etc. Almanzo himself eats enough for a family of four.
Don’t get me wrong. The entire family works hard from morning to night – running a farm isn’t easy. BUT…there wasn’t the same feeling of living on the edge. This story felt more like a how-to for life in the late 1800s. How to bale hay. How to make ice cream. How to transport logs. See what I’m saying?
Probably the most heart-warming scene is towards the end. Almanzo’s older brother is off at boarding school as he wants to become a shopkeeper. Both sisters are also at the school. Almanzo is still too young so is left at home. When Mr. Wilder is offered for Almanzo to apprentice with a businessman in town, he considers it but decides to leave it up to his son. Both mother and father were hopeful that he would choose to stay and run the farm but were unwilling to force him. (How hard would that be? As a parent, you’ve worked hard your entire life to build a successful farm and then you may have to face the reality that none of your children want to walk in your footsteps.) Fortunately for everyone, Almanzo is a farmer boy at heart. He has no desire to do anything else and his dream is to have his own colt that he can break. That dream comes true with Starlight.
Overall, still a great book. I can’t wait to get further into the series!