Until she met Obrum Kehler, serious Sarah Sudermann had never laughed. Her mother said she always reached for the black things first. But then Obrum looked at her with his robin’s egg eyes and red paint on his nose.
And then there was the lawnswing . . . and the piano. Not practical. Not necessary. But with Beethoven Blatz’s arrival everything is in place for the Kehler family to make great music together.
Full of love, longing, and tenderness, Grandmother, Laughing is a story about an unconventional family and the lengths we will go to find fulfillment for ourselves and the ones we cherish.
The richness of Wiebe’s description of prairie life, the prairie itself, his insights into the characters’ lives, is enhanced by the Mennonite terms and expressions he uses. The reader is suddenly transported to Gutenthal and becomes immersed in the lives of the author’s creation.
The novel moves with the skill of its author, flowing from one generation to the next all the time with Sarah setting one foot in front of the other, breathing, “Not just nose and lungs, no, the head—and the heart and soul.” (212)
--Mary Barnes, Prairie Fire
Multiple themes and re-visioned ancient archetypes are deftly smuggled in via Mennonite peasant humour, both linguistic and farcical. It’s as if [Wiebe] wishes to insist, one more time, that the grand potential of human endeavour, with all its creative hunger for beauty and capacity for love, is as likely to be seen in a simple Mennonite milk maid... as in some courtly tragic hero... Read GRANDMOTHER, LAUGHING twice, and before the second reading, listen carefully to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Then, as the shivers run up your ‘backstring,’ let the ‘peasant woman’ Susch be translated into the laughing grandmother, the muse.
--Journal of Mennonite Studies
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