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.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: A Sudden Country: A Novel|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Random House, Inc.|
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A Sudden Country: A Novel
He carried his girl tied to his front, the trapsack on his back, the rifle balanced like a yoke along his shoulders. He walked all day on snowshoes, lost in effort, in steady breathing. The snow drove thick and clotted on his eyebrows, filled his beard. It cluttered his drawing breath.
He’d left the cabin, his valley with its knoll of pines. In the barn, the wind had pulled the uneaten hay and scattered it. He’d left the saddles, stiff with frost. The horses had run off.
There had been a pass to climb. A north wind to bear against. He’d thought to catch the clearing weather, though each night the moon grew smaller.
“Are you there, June?”
He made halt with his back to the wind. Took off his mittens, blew on his hands to thaw them. She stirred in the bundled blanket.
“Let me see.”
Her hands emerged. MacLaren tried to feel them, but his own hands were too cold.
She nodded. She’d cried the night before, a sad thin wail against him in the stinging wind. He kept looking at her fingers, held them balled inside his hand. He squinted at the sky. In all the world now was nothing but the two of them, and white.
At midday, he unlaced his snowshoes, stood them on their tails. Knocked the ice out of his beard, lit a fire, stripped balsam boughs for tea. The snow had quit.
When water boiled, she took the blanket from him, held it tented as he’d shown her, so she could breathe the clearing steam. Her hair was damp, eyes murky gray like his. He watched her fingers curl around coarse wool. He put the steaming pot beside her.
All his life, he’d only gone from...