I read A Long Winter at a perfect time in my life, because it's impossible to read it and feel sorry for yourself and your spoiled rotten life conditions. Laura and her family are surviving a terrible winter of successive blizzards, which the Native Americans said came every seven years. There is no government to help them. There are neighbors, but they are in a similar situation. Life gets down to the bare essentials of faith, hope and love. They are literally starving to death. They run out of flour and Pa manages to get them a bag of coarse wheat which they have to grind with the cofee mill everyday and they eat bread every day. But they don't complain... instead Ma compliments Pa on having gotten tea for them the summer before so they have tea to drink with their bread everyday. They don't have wood to burn and run the risk of freezing to death. Laura helps Pa twist hay every day to burn and it cuts their hands so much Pa can't play the fiddle anymore. They run the risk of losing their mental sanity and can't stand the noise of the blizzards. Instead of getting angry at each other and blaming each other, they help each other.
"Laura hoped that she seemed cheerful enough to encourage the others. But all the time she knew that this storm had blocked the train again. She knew that almost all the coal was gone from the pile in the lean-to. There was no more coal in town. The kerosene was low in the lamp though Ma lighted it only while they ate supper. There would be no meat until the train came." (Chapter "Seed Wheat")
"His arm tightened and gave Laura a little hugging shake, before he set Carrie and Grace down rom his knees. Laura knew what he meant. She was old enough now to stand by him and Ma in hard times. She must not worry; she must be cheerful and help to keep up all their spirits." (Chapter "The Hard Winter")