“I picked this story out of a line-up of potential stories for review, and honestly, what drew me to it is the fact that my name is also Laura. That, and I was intrigued to learn about the life of another Laura in what is, essentially, a whole other world (specifically the town of Atwood, Kansas, U.S.A).
I was fascinated by Laura’s story from start to finish. Not only had her early life been quite different to mine, but it started nearly one hundred years ago. Another world, another time. Despite some similarities I found between myself and Laura Schmid (she was born with dark eyes and hair, like me; her father named her Laura, like mine had; she never liked her name, and neither have I, though she disliked it due to the fact no one had heard it before, and I dislike it due to how common it is these days!), her upbringing couldn’t have been more different.
She was born, lived and worked on her parents farm along with her fourteen other brothers and sisters, being the youngest girl with only three brothers below her in age (I grew up with five other siblings, and I thought that was tough!). They all attended school when they reached the right age, but were never permitted to go on to high school, as their father wouldn’t allow it. Of course, Laura, at eighteen, did eventually attend high school, and then college, although she was ‘twelve hours’ from graduating when she decided instead to marry. Quite a different time indeed.
Throughout the story (which reminded me of the television show, Little House on the Prairie, that I used to watch every Sunday, that included another young girl named Laura), Laura recounts not only her childhood, but that and the lives of her immigrant parents and her numerous brothers and sisters, even putting in accounts from her brothers Joe and Paul on their experiences of life on the farm and in World War II. Laura and her family experienced a lot when it came to life and death, loyalty and sacrifice, but in reading you get the sense that camaraderie was a way of life in those days; times were tough so you had to look out for each other. Illness was rife and much of it still uncured and untreatable, so when a family member or close friend was taken it certainly had a knock on effect on every one who knew them.
Laura’s story is beautifully and intriguingly written. It’s very factual but you also get a feel of who Laura is as a person; strong, smart and incredibly devoted to her family, close and distant. Not only do you come to understand what life was like for a large family in the early twentieth century Mid-West of North America, you also get to know what the world was like in general, particularly with the war and the Great Depression hitting the U.S.
I’m used to picking up biographies on celebrities or those who have led eventful lives in one way or another, and normally I would think that the majority of people in the world don’t have any particular reason to bother writing an autobiography (I may only be twenty-four, but so far I know my life would not make for an interesting read!). Indeed nothing major in the way of events ever really happened to Laura, but reading and understanding her life under different circumstances and in a different time is almost like a reading a history book, teaching lessons in humility, loyalty and sacrifice, and learning that although life may not seem eventful whilst you’re living it, when you’re eighty-something and looking back over the years, your achievements and experiences can mean a heck of a lot more than they did way back when.
Maybe instead of picking up another life story of some reality T.V star who is barely out of school, I will think twice and search the bookshops for something a little more understated and unknown. Perhaps I’ll come across another life like Laura’s, and learn a few more things from a stranger’s life on the other side of the world, and perhaps learn to appreciate mine even more.”
Special thanks to Laura Garnier with Super Phlum Book Reviews!