31 May 2014


Locus Focus: Take One Hundred and Two!

This month, the theme was Mothers' Birthplaces. To get to them, we only had to cross an ocean . . . to cross a country . . . and to cross enemy lines within an extended family. (I didn't mention that about the previous setting, but it's true!) Next month, as I always do in June, I'll be featuring settings from novels by Filipino authors. But for now, we have one more mother and one more birthplace . . .

by Patricia MacLachlan

Maine is green and full of voices and people laughing and talking; the tide going in and going out; the moon rising above the water.

Sarah loves it here. The last thing every night she walks by the water, and the first thing in morning she is there, too. Now I know how much she missed her old home.

I miss my home. I miss [our dogs] Lottie and Nick and the land and the big sky.

I miss Papa.

Skylark is the sequel to Sarah, Plain and Tall--and if you've read the first novel, then you already know the catch in this setting. Maine is a stepmother's birthplace.

And for two years, it has been a cold shadow in the happiness of her two adoring stepchildren, who knew as early as their first meeting that the biggest threat to their home on the Kansas prairies would be their new mother's longing for her first home by the sea. But they themselves don't get to see it until a terrible drought forces them off their land and Maine must serve as a temporary place to live. There, our young narrator Anna learns firsthand of the cool, fresh beauty of this state by the sea . . . and of the deep ache of homesickness, wherever you happen to be from.

I'm glad that Skylark gets to be our final book for May, because it has the final answer to the same question all our other texts have asked: the question of how anyone can feel at home in one place when his roots are in another. Like the other three books we've looked at, Skylark agrees that returning to your roots is essential--especially if you still feel pain from the uprooting. It is pain that is especially great for the children of immigrants, the children of divorce, and the children of feuding generations, who know that no matter what they do, there will be no grafting severed branches back onto the trees they were sawed from. But in this continuing story of a woman who chose to leave one home that she might embrace another, there is also something for them.

It is so tempting to be a skylark and to know that the freedom of the air will always be yours. But the real healing is in coming back down to earth and building a nest of your own in a land that you have learned to love. 

Question of the Week: Have you ever been homesick for a place that isn't the first home you remember?

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If you have a Locus Focus post of your own today, please leave the link in the combox. I would love to read it and to discuss it with you! =)

Learn more about Locus Focus on the Settings page.

Image Source: Skylark by Patricia MacLachlan


DMS said...

I read Sarah Plain and Tall, but I haven't read Skylark. I now have to do so and I know it will be a fast read.

The idea of longing for home is something I think many of us can relate to in one way or another. I am often homesick for my grandparents' house, though it wasn't my first home. I spent many happy hours their learning and growing.

Thanks for sharing. Plus- I love Maine, so now I am thinking of being by the sea...

Montana @ The Book Belles said...

I haven't read Sarah Plain and Tall or Skylark, but both do seem interesting. Your review has me curious to read Skylark. I personally haven't been homesick for a place that isn't the first home I remember, as I've lived in pretty much the same place my whole life. That's a great question, though :)

Enbrethiliel said...


Jess -- I was surprised to find out last weekend that there even are more books about the Witting family! The one after Skylark is Caleb's Story. That's the one I'd like to read next. =)

Montana -- Welcome! Thanks for commenting! I'm still homesick for the place where I went to uni. It's such an odd feeling to long for it, because I know I wouldn't want to live there permanently (which is precisely why I left after graduation). I guess I just wish that it were closer than it is, so that I could visit once a year.

Sheila said...

All the time. I don't remember my birthplace, and have no real ties there. I have been back there once and not a single thing seemed familiar or even friendly. I do remember vaguely the house where I was a toddler, but I don't miss it. I sometimes miss the apartment where I was a preschooler, a little. But I desperately, desperately miss the place I grew up the rest of the time. We lived there ten years, and I sort of thought we would always be there. When I think of my climbing tree in the backyard, I feel so forlorn.

I also miss my grandma's house, which she still has, and her cabin, which she doesn't. And in general I miss the whole Pacific Northwest; there is a feel to it that is like nowhere else.

On the other hand, year by year I am putting down more roots where I am. Every year that the seasons return exactly the same, with the same birds and flowers, I feel a sense of rightness ..... these things are just as they should be, and I do belong here. It's hard to explain to my family, who all think I ought to move back near them and it's near-treason to suggest any other place could be as nice. Sometimes I would like to go back. But then I think of all the reasons why we are here, and I think it's best to set down roots and bloom where I'm planted. Anyway, between all the moving around and boarding school and college and so forth, I've now lived less than half my life in the Northwest, and almost eight years in total here in Virginia. I suppose it is time enough by now for me to feel at home here.

Enbrethiliel said...


If I hadn't already recommended Sarah, Plain and Tall and Skylark to you, I would have after reading your last paragraph! There are few guides better than the American pioneers for someone who must put down roots in a strange place and learn to love it. =)