Because MacLachlan does not refer to specific locations or historical events, both the geographic and temporal settings of Sarah, Plain and Tall are difficult to pinpoint. The story is set somewhere on the great American prairie at a time when horses still served as the major mode of transportation, probably in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. MacLachlan, born in Wyoming on the high plains, finds great joy and inspiration in this open country. In Sarah, Plain and Tall, the prairie is a living presence whose weather and seasons constantly shape the lives of its inhabitants. An unseen but important additional setting is Sarah's beloved Atlantic Ocean, which she misses intensely after her relocation to the prairie. Its colors—green, blue, and gray—are essential elements of her world. When, at the end of the book, she drives to town and brings back green, blue, and gray colored pencils, Sarah fills a gap in both her life and the lives of the children. By bringing the colors of the sea to the prairie, Sarah serves as a personal bridge between the two environments, completing the family's household just as she has succeeded in completing the spectrum.
(The entire section is 197 words.)