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.
Fisher builds a grand, mesmerizing novel on the bare chronicle left by her ancestor Emma Ruth Ross Slavin, who was 11 when her family joined the 1847 Oregon migration. Emma's mother, Lucy Mitchell, is a widow, remarried despite her grief for her first husband and resenting the decision of her second husband, Israel Mitchell, to emigrate. James McLaren is a Scottish trapper for the Hudson Bay Company, uneasy both with the emigrants and with the Native Americans, whose fate is bound up with his own. When McLaren loses his children to smallpox and his Nez Perce wife to another trapper, he tracks the trapper to Lucy Mitchell's wagon train. Lucy and McLaren's charged encounter opens her up to the land and him to his own need for roots as he signs on to guide her little band on their trek from the Iowa banks of the Missouri to the Columbia River in Oregon. Fisher tells their storires, past and present, with a poet's sense of the sound and heft of each word. Her compassionate, unsentimental eye makes even minor characters unforgettable. She reveals the labor of running a household when there is no house; equally well, she shows us mountains of death and splendor. In the collision between household and wilderness, Fisher brilliantly illuminates both the tragedy and the new life wrought by manifest destiny. This is a great novel of the American West. Agent, Christina Ward. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
With this compelling account of life on the Oregon Trail and the waning days of the fur trade, newcomer Fisher offers a literary masterpiece. The book's entwined narratives follow Lucy Mitchell, one of the author's forebears, and James MacLaren, a former Hudson Bay Company man who has lost his half-breed children to smallpox. When Lucy's imperious husband signs on with a group heading for Oregon, she reluctantly leaves her Iowa home to trek across the country with their four children, including a babe in arms. She and MacLaren meet when he joins their wagon train as a guide under questionable circumstances. Lucy soon senses a connection with MacLaren's sorrow. While Fisher's depiction of the West's grandeur is masterly, she approaches description obliquely, as would a poet, whether she is portraying a fleeting image from the natural world or the novel's major events. Powerful as the historical notes are, the novel's themes of love and connection, resolution of grief, and the wantonness of civilization transcend the Western genre to resonate with all readers. Buy this book!-Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ. Libs., Harrisonburg, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
"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
-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