Sarah, Plain and Tall

by Patricia MacLachlan
Series: Sarah, Plain and Tall #1
58 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Lily A.

A sweet and quiet sort of book, not particularly religious, about a mail-order bride.


A widower on a prairie farm advertises for a mail-order bride, and a lady answers. She is to come for a visit, to try to get to know the family a little and decide whether she would be willing to become their wife and mother. The family rapidly comes to care for their would-be member - but will Sarah stay?


Family is valued, hard work is respectable and expected. From today's point of view the premise may seem odd and potentially dangerous, but this was a much more innocent time.

Spiritual Content

Should the wedding occur, it will be a church wedding compliments of a traveling preacher.


The former mother of the family died from complications of childbirth, and at least for a while, the daughter is inclined to hold this against her little brother. A lamb is found dead. The daughter considers the likelihood of a chicken which has been made a pet being killed. The children half-seriously consider tying Sarah up to keep her from leaving them.

Drug and Alcohol Content


Sexual Content

None, really. While Sarah does live with her potential family, including her would-be husband, they ARE in a sparsely inhabited area without other options, and there is no indication that there is anything happening between her and the widower. The most physical affection to occur between them in the reader's view is when he puts his arm around her while they watch a hail-storm.

Crude or Profane Language or Content



The first time I read this book, when I was about eight or nine, I did not find it very interesting. There is little action. It is mostly a story of how characters come to know and care for one another, and deal with their daily lives along the way.

When I re-read it now, I find it sweet and beautiful. It is told in simple language, through the words of a young girl, but there are gems of description in it.

The characters are far removed from the world I know. They live in a time and place where their food is of their own raising, neighbors are rare and valued, and you can't count on having a preacher to go to every Sunday. But it is also a kinder world, where a mother is a treasure like a gem to be sought, and a lady can come out west to meet a man and be treated as a lady, with no fear of it being otherwise.

By the end of the book I felt like I knew these people, like perhaps they were real, and while I wouldn't like to give up my modern conveniences, I might wish to visit them in their world.

Fun Score: 3.5
Values Score: 4.5
Written for Age: 8-10

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