Sarah, Plain and Tall and that time I went all
FANGIRL on Patricia MacLachlan
“Did mama sing every day?” asked Caleb. “Every-single-day?” He sat close to the fire, his chin in his hand. It was dusk, and the dogs lay beside him on the warm hearthstones.
Somehow in my reading lifetime I missed Sarah, Plain and Tall; I recently re-discovered this gem and can see why it is so beloved. After Papa is left a widower with small children at home, he puts an ad in the newspaper for a wife. What he gets is Sarah. Sarah is a perfect match for Papa and the children and the delightful tale of their growing relationships gently unfolds during the story.
No matter how much I enjoyed the story (and the possibility of reading the sequels) I cannot help thinking that there is no ethnic diversity in the story. But not nonexistent. The author very slyly imposes a feminist approach to Sarah’s character. Sarah is smart and physically strong and is able to perform many tasks around the farm that are traditionally male and forces the family to understand that these abilities are part of her character. Naturally, Papa has trouble adjusting to this type of woman. These-strong minded female character traits are important for young readers to be exposed to. This viewpoint provides diversity with Sarah is a role model.
There is so much going on with this book I don’t know where to begin. Mail order brides were a thing back long ago so let’s not judge that. Imagine how hard it must be for this young woman to join a family and make it her own? She’s got to be a very special person. Not really diversity but I don’t know a child out there who doesn’t love SPT. Nowadays, most children can relate to having a stepmother, stepfather or some sort of blended family.
And feminism? It seems like a quaint word today, doesn’t it? With rare exceptions, most women today speak their mind and can do what they want without permission from a husband. I can tell you this though, many years ago I was lucky enough to spend tea time with Patricia MacLachlan during a BEA event. I’m sure I must have written about it. Just as you’d expect, she’s a doll. So sweet and there is diversity in her family and she loves children of all races, colors, etc. I acted like a complete FANGIRL and gushed all over her. No shame. She even kissed me on the cheek! Did I mention she liked my blog? I wept like a goob.