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Great Plains Patchwork

A Memoir

Great Plains Patchwork lyrically chronicles the “wondrous strange” Great Plains, a grassland with no equal on earth. Join author, poet and prose stylist Marilyn Coffey as she follows her family’s traces from the 1880s, when her great-grandfathers broke sod, to 1959. Linger with her as she skillfully stitches together historical research, myth, family legend, and memory to recreate a now-lost world. An ancient world, sixty-five million years old. A gorgeous world of glittering flowers and native grasses tangled in a wild profusion webbed by buffalo and Indian paths. A funny world filled with raucous, Irish-American humor. A terror-fraught world of drought, dust storms, and grasshopper hordes. Of dizzying tornadoes, violent thunderstorms, and lethal lightning bolts. Of rowdy roughhousing, record-busting bank robbers, World War II heroes, Teamsters’ Union battles, and mass murderers.

Not only is Great Plains Patchwork unique for its author’s voice and its patchwork construction, but also for its location–the often-overlooked yet pivotal central plains–and its subject. What happened to the descendants of the second wave of immigration is rarely written about and even more rarely by a woman. Until now.

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praise for
Great Plains Patchwork


"An entertaining, insightful collection.” 
The New York Times

“I hope your book goes like a house afire. It looks as if it should.” 
Wallace Stegner, an American novelist, short story writer and historian, often called “The Dean of Western Writers.”

“A rich & fertile book.”
Meridel LeSueur, an American author who grew up on the Midwestern plains and was known for writing about the Depression Era.

Book Data
Publisher: Iowa State Press
Publication Date: September 30, 1989
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8138034-1-8
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