A Sudden Country
By Karen Fisher
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, Paperback, 9780812973433, 400pp.)
Publication Date: June 27, 2006
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A vivid and revelatory novel based on actual events of the 1847 Oregon migration, A Sudden Country follows two characters of remarkable complexity and strength in a journey of survival and redemption.
James MacLaren, once a resourceful and ambitious Hudson’s Bay Company trader, has renounced his aspirations for a quiet family life in the Bitterroot wilderness. Yet his life is overturned in the winter of 1846, when his Nez Perce wife deserts him and his children die of smallpox. In the grip of a profound sorrow, MacLaren, whose home once spanned a continent, sets out to find his wife. But an act of secret vengeance changes his course, introducing him to a different wife and mother: Lucy Mitchell, journeying westward with her family.
Lucy, a remarried widow, careful mother, and reluctant emigrant, is drawn at once to the self-possessed MacLaren. Convinced that he is the key to her family’s safe passage, she persuades her husband to employ him. As their hidden stories and obsessions unfold, and pasts and cultures collide, both Lucy and MacLaren must confront the people they have truly been, are, and may become.
Alive with incident and insight, presenting with rare scope and intimacy the complex relations among nineteenth-century traders, immigrants, and Native Americans, A Sudden Country is, above all, a heroic and unforgettable story of love and loss, sacrifice and understanding.
Karen Fisher has lived in the West as a teacher, wrangler, farmer, and carpenter. She now lives with her husband and their three children on an island in the Puget Sound.
“A splendid novel, rendering a past era of America with resonant clarity and unfolding an achingly human story. Fisher also has a distinctively lovely narrative voice. This is a very impressive debut from a writer I will be delighted to follow in the years to come.”
–Robert Olen Butler, author of Had a Good Time
“A gorgeous and mesmerizing story of a journey. Fisher provides both the historical context and the perfect detail with equal grace. She deals in big emotions, big adventures, big landscapes, and human-size people. This is a remarkable, remarkable book and I loved every word of it.”
–Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club
“On every page of A Sudden Country, Karen Fisher finds a way to astonish– with her extraordinary command of period details, with her profound insights into love-tormented hearts and minds, with her style, which is both lyrical and economical. This is a magnificent debut.”
–Larry Watson, author of Orchard and Montana 1948
“A Sudden Country will take you to the frontiers of your heart. Let Karen Fisher’s story remind you of what we all know most deeply: Life itself–the will to survive–depends on love.”
–Thomas Eidson, author of The Missing