A word or four about A Sudden Country by Karen Fisher, a novel I recommend highly. It’s set in 1847 on the Oregon Trail. One of two main characters, Lucy is reluctantly traveling west with her husband, someone she’s married for convenience rather than love. Along the way she meets the other main character, James MacLaren, who is searching for his Nez Perce wife who had deserted him, leaving him behind with their children who die of small pox. Naturally, the plot is centered on the growing love between the two. But the writing style and the attention to details of what it must have been like to travel the Oregon Trail a hundred and fifty years ago are what make this not just a good book, but a great one. A quote or two to illustrate.
On love: "He wanted to tell her: love was a cheat. All hopes, all desires were nothing but pitiful inventions born of our own ignorance and sorrow. The things we sought were never there when we arrived, or never stayed. Love was not the last eternal benediction."
On sorrow: “There's jagged times. Till hurt wears off.”
On grief: Lucy, not at all happy about their journey to Oregon, has just awakened from a dream in which her little girl has drowned in a stream, a dream that provokes this: “She thought about the years to come, and whether she could ever bear to lose a child, why mothers were fated to dream this way. Until it seemed such dreams must play a part in hardening off the tender heart, like those chills that toughened seedlings on spring nights, by God’s design: in the safety of our sleep, exposing us to the icy blasts of possibility—the unspeakable future, the unquiet past. To make us stronger in the daylight world.” How elegantly said. Find this book, buy this book, read this book. You won’t be disappointed.