Local author pens 2nd novel

Tribune Staff • Oct 22, 2016 at 3:00 PM

Name of book: “Portrait of a Prairie Woman: Learning to Love the Land and the People”

Author: Tom Laughlin

Published by: Splattered Ink Press (a Grand Haven publisher)

Literary genre: Historical novel

Available at: The Bookman, Amazon.com


Mable Richmond’s childhood was defined by lace, social acceptance and a proper education in the thriving city of Melrose, Minnesota. But less than eight years later, at age 24, she was unmarried, pregnant and abandoned on a homestead in the Montana prairie.

Her family moved west following a dominating father’s construction jobs. In 1913, she filed a homestead claim in North-Central Montana and everything changed. Her mother died, her father left her alone on the prairie, and her boyfriend left her pregnant with her first child. Harry Green came into this chaos, married her, and became a loving father to their children. In 1926, Harry was killed in a railroad accident and again Mabel was alone with five young children. Through it all, she found strength and learned the importance of friends and community.

Women of the early 20th century were eager to break away from the expectations of the Victorian Age. They wanted their independence, the right to vote and a voice in their community. “Portrait of a Prairie Woman” is the story of Mabel Richmond’s struggles to overcome the obstacles of homesteading on the Great Plains.

It is a microcosm of America’s entry into the modern era. It is a story of perseverance, courage and patience in the face of changing times and expectations. This book should resonate not only with women, but with anyone interested in America in the early 20th century.

Why write the book?

“Portrait of a Prairie Woman” is based on my grandmother’s real life. She always talked of living on the homestead in Montana, but our family was never sure how many of the stories were true. A few years ago, I came upon her diary from 1914, her first full year on the prairie, a series of letters written from the prairie, and a family scrapbook of events from the early 1900s. Further research produced a number of other articles and information of how my grandmother ended up homesteading after living a comfortable childhood. Using those pieces of information, I was able to recreate her life on the homestead. I discovered her life was even more eventful and adventuresome than she ever told us about.

Author’s thoughts:

Obviously, I am biased in my opinion of the book, but I am very happy with how it has turned out. My first book, “Summer of ’71,” was a memoir of my own personal trips, so it was easy to write. I was determined to take my time and be as accurate as possible with the story of my grandmother’s life. I found doing the research exciting and invigorating, and I took my time to get things right and write a quality book. I hope people find it interesting and also inspirational.

About the author:

Tom Laughlin is retired from Grand Haven Area Public Schools after teaching history and coaching cross country and eighth-grade basketball for more than 30 years. He is also a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army after 23 years of active and reserve duty. His first book was a memoir of hitchhiking across the United States in 1971. He and his wife, Jackie, have two sons who are married with two children each.

Editor’s note: If you have recently written a book and would like to share the information with our readers, contact [email protected], or call 616-842-6400, ext. 232.

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