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.

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