Great-Grandmother Inspires South Dakota Homestead Novel

Oct 22, 2014

In the opening of Dawn Wink’s novel, Meadowlark, 16-year-old Grace is an excited young bride looking forward to a life with her new husband, Tom. But any ideas of she has of an idyllic life together are shattered during their trip from the wedding to western South Dakota. Without warning, Tom pulls her off the wagon, punches and kicks her, and leaves her to walk the rest of the way to their sod hot.

Living with an abusive husband is just one of the challenges Grace faces. There’s also the loneliness and isolation that challenged other homesteaders struggling to survive on an often harsh landscape. But helping her through these difficulties are two other young women: Mae, a bold, plucky doctor from Boston; and Daisy, a Lakota widow. With their help, Grace survives and learns how to create beauty from ugliness.

Grace is also the name of Dawn Wink’s great-grandmother and the source of inspiration for Meadowlark. Like her fictional counterpart, the real-life Grace traveled to western South Dakota in 1911 as a newly wed 16-year-old and settled at the place where her descendants still ranch.

Wink is an associate professor at Santa Fe Community College. She was a featured author at the 2014 South Dakota Festival of Books and Meadowlark is one of this year’s selections in the Dakota Midday Book Club. She joined Dakota Midday and discussed Meadowlark and both the real and fictional Grace.

For more information, visit Dawn Wink's blog, Dewdrops.