The First Four Years is a book written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and found in the belongings of Rose Wilder Lane (Laura's daughter) by Roger Lea MacBride, Rose's heir, upon Rose's death in 1968. Laura wrote all of her books on dime store tablets, and the manuscript of the book was found untouched, in Laura's handwriting, as Laura had written it.
It was apparently a first draft of a book Laura had decided to write, possibly as a ninth book in her Little House on the Prairie series, but more likely as a separate novel for adults (much of the material is more for an adult audience than anything in her Little House books), but her actual intent is not known. She seems to have written the extant first draft sometime around 1940, and then apparently lost interest in the project. Roger MacBride, the adopted grandson of Rose Wilder Lane, and executor of her estate, made a decision to publish The First Four Years without any editing, so it came directly from Laura's pencil to the written pages. Because Laura never reworked the manuscript - and Rose never edited it (Rose edited all of her mother's earlier writings for publication), it is less polished in style than the books of the Little House series, but it is still unmistakably Laura's writing. The First Four Years derives its title from a promise Laura made to Almanzo when they became engaged. Laura did not want to be a farm wife, but she consented to try farming for three years. At the end of that time, Laura and Almanzo mutually agreed to continue for one more year, a "year of grace", in Laura's words. The book ends at the close of that fourth year, on a rather optimistic note. In reality, the continually hot, dry Dakota summers, and several other tragic events they sustained eventually drove them from their land, but they later founded a very successful fruit and dairy farm in Missouri, where they lived comfortably until their respective deaths.