Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Death Comes for the Archbishop - Willa Cather

Death Comes for the Archbishop
Title: Death Comes for the Archbishop
Author: Willa Cather
Publication Date: 1927
Pages: 297
Genre: Classic /Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: 100 Best Novels
Date Completed: 7/29/16

Summary: Commissioned to serve the distant new Western territories of the United States, Father Latour faces a myriad of challenges as Catholic leader of New Mexico and beyond.

What I Thought: This is one of the 100 Best Novels I knew virtually nothing about before beginning it. I went it nearly blind, with only a modicum of excitement due to the rare presence of a female author on the list. I came out delighted.

I loved this book. The writing is beautiful, restrained, and thoughtful. The story of Father Latour is so simple and I think that's part of what makes it so lovely. He has been given this rather undesirable territory in which to foster Catholicism. He does his work with dignity and dedication, never complaining or wishing to be given a more plum assignment. 

Each section of the book has a few chapters and tells an almost stand alone story. The book all ties together well, but these individual vignettes would also work well on their own. Each is unique and offers a different insight into life out in the western territory. 

I think I especially appreciate the quiet faith demonstrated throughout the book. Often, when history looks on the Catholic priests of old, sent into the New World to convert, we do not hear good things. While I am sure many of these historical men were just as earnest and genuine as Father Latour, we more often hear of the abuses of the Church throughout history. It was encouraging and inspiring for me to read about the life a missionary so dedicated to his mission and to the tenants of his faith. Even though this man is obviously a fictional character, he often reminded me of the Christian missionary stories my parents read to my sister and I when we were kids. There's a real beauty in working hard at something, even when it is less than glamorous, because you believe it is your call in life and you are making an eternal difference. 

This is definitely a success from the Modern Library list. I am so glad to have read it. I will most certainly read it again, maybe even soon after I finish the challenge next year. I know it's the type of book that will continue to give something new with each reading. I cannot wait to travel the rugged terrain with Father Latour again, relishing in the beauty of Cather's writing and Latour's quiet dedication to his work. 

Quote I Loved: "They actually lived upon their Rock; were born upon it and died upon it. There was an element of exaggeration in anything so simple!"

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Yes

A Reduced Review: A beautiful, restrained, thoughtful look at the life of a Catholic priest in New Mexico territory; this novel was a delightful surprise from the Modern Library list. 

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