Sarah, Plain and Tall

I take complete ownership of two pop culture items that connect to me. “Brown Eyed Girl” is clearly my song (no one else has brown eyes) and Sarah, Plain and Tall is clearly my book (there are no other tall, plain girls with that name).

As a tall, gangly preteen when I first discovered this little book, I immediately connected with the title. Then, I probably connected most with Anna as she was roughly my age, lived in the plains, and was in that awkward stage (though I still have my mother).

Now, as an adult re-reading the copy I gave to my 8-year-old niece, I connect more with Sarah Wheaton and the idea of being able to start over as well as with Jacob Witting and the chance to love again.

I read this book so long ago and watched the 1991 Hallmark made-for-tv movie so much, it was impossible not to picture Glenn Close and Christopher Walken’s faces as those of Sarah and Jacob. (Christopher Walken, incidentally, was one of my first Hollywood crushes as I was not familiar with his more sinister and quirky roles.)

I remember the movie having more suspense, especially the will she/won’t she stay and the emotional final scene where she returns (instead of uses) her return ticket to Maine — completely not in the book. Also in the movie, Maggie, their friend’s mail-order bride, was from Europe with a heavy accent; in the book, she’s from Tennessee.

I will never understand why movies must change or embellish a wonderful story that is already perfect.

Anyway, as I was re-reading this again in my niece’s room while the rest of the house is dead asleep (it is, after all, almost midnight), I poured over every word with a little mist in my eyes. Happy tears of wonderful memories reading, watching, and talking about this gorgeous story. Sad tears for any child who’s ever lost a parent (or had one who was emotionally or physically distant). Excited tears as I think of my niece loving every word of this classic, too.


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