MYSTERIES OF LOVE AND GRIEF:
REFLECTIONS ON A PLAINSWOMAN’S LIFE
By Sandra Scofield
Published in 2015 by Texas Tech University Press.
Reviewed by Karen S. Swensson.
The most significant adult in Sandra Scofield’s troubled life was her maternal grandmother, Frieda Harms. Shortly after Frieda’s death Scofield received boxes of memorabilia collected by her Aunt Eula Mae from Frieda’s house. Knowing that one day she would write a story about her grandmother, she tucked the boxes away in her pantry, occasionally skimming their contents over the years, never dreaming that she would be an “old woman” herself before finding the will to bring her grandmother’s story to life.
“Pictures go through my mind like a slide show.” Scofield delivers her reflections in small, random pieces, grouped together in sections, as if putting together a large puzzle without benefit of the photo on the box. Growing up in a family physically and emotionally divided by her mother’s recurring illness and failed romantic relationships, she sensed an undercurrent of tension, always present, never discussed, between her mother and grandmother. Although she never doubted her grandmother’s love, she was unable to penetrate Frieda’s wall of privacy to get answers to her questions about the past—her father’s identity, what her mother was like as a child, and the source of the tension between her mother and Frieda.
The memorabilia from Frieda’s house provide clues to the life she saw no need to discuss with her granddaughter. They document love and loss, hardship and sacrifice, anger and grief, and attest to the remarkable stoicism of a woman, born in Indian Territory, who was widowed and raised three children during the Great Depression.
In attempting to piece together the puzzle of her grandmother’s life, Scofield also searches for understanding of the unresolved issues in her own life. But, while the random arrangement of Scofield’s reflections requires frequent reviews of her abbreviated family tree in order to keep the cast of characters straight, the unfolding of Frieda’s story is well worth the effort.
Karen S. Swensson was born and raised in the Midwest, and has lived on both coasts, in Zaire, in Germany, and currently lives in the Texas Hill Country. Three of her short stories have been published in anthologies. A descendant of Norwegian immigrant pioneers, her fictionalized family history, Conversations Loosely Translated: A Story of Koshkonong Prairie Pioneers, is now available on Amazon.com.