Reflections on a Plainswoman’s Life
Frieda Harms was born into a farming family in Indian Territory in 1906. Widowed at thirty and left with three children in the midst of the Great Depression, she worked as a farmer, a railroad cook, a mill worker, and a nurse in four states. She died in 1983.
Sandra Scofield spent most of her childhood with her grandmother Frieda and remained close to her in adulthood. When Frieda died, Sandra received her Bible and boxes of her photographs, letters, and notes. For thirty years, Sandra dipped into that cache.
Sandra always sensed an undercurrent of hard feelings within her grandmother, but it was not until she sifted through Frieda’s belongings that she began to understand how much her life had demanded, and how much she had given. At the same time, questions in Sandra’s own history began to be answered, especially about the tug-of-war between her mother and grandmother. At last, in Mysteries of Love and Grief, Scofield wrestles with the meaning of her grandmother’s saga of labor and loss, trying to balance her need to understand with respect for Frieda’s mystery.
Praise for MYSTERIES OF LOVE AND GRIEF
Throughout her depiction of her own family, Scofield kept me surprised—a moment of generosity when I didn’t expect it or of anger when I didn’t expect that. Mysteries remain as they must, but I trusted the insights as well as the mysteries. I thought it was a very beautiful book, smart and sharp.
—Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and The Jane Austen Book Club
Largely ungoverned by chronology, Scofield’s journey of discovery unfolds organically, true to the way memory works. Seeking to know her grandmother, she honors the lives and artistic bent of many women marginalized by gender and poverty in the early to mid-twentieth century. This is a unique and necessary work.
—Lorraine M. López, author of Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories and The Darling
I have no idea why I was expecting a Little House on the Prairie type experience (maybe because she references the series a few times in the book), but this was not it. That’s not a bad thing when you consider that Little House glosses over things like extreme poverty, death, and doing illegal activities (shame on you, Pa). The pain and confusion Scofield feels for her mother and grandmother are evident throughout the memoir. While I was confused now and then (I could never get the hang of her calling everyone by first name rather than “Mother” and “Aunt”), I could relate to the mixed feelings about family. I know all too well the wanting to move away and move on, but finding yourself running back to where you came from. My takeaway from this writing was that we don’t always get to know the truth, definitely not all of it, but we should embrace the love while it’s with us. Also, Texas breeds some strong ass, independent women. I think I would love having a coffee talk with Scofield.
A native Texan, Sandra Scofield divides her time between Missoula, Montana, and Portland, Oregon.
She has written seven novels, a memoir, and a craft book for writers. An excerpt from Mysteries of Love and Grief won first place in Narrative magazine’s 2014 Spring Story Contest. She is an avid landscape painter.
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