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A Sudden Country: A Novel Paperback – June 27, 2006


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (June 27, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812973437
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812973433
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #237,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Love, loss, sacrifice, adventure, tragedy, redemption—what more could readers want? Fisher’s debut novel successfully captures the spirit, unexpected hardships, and high costs of the naïve pioneers who trekked west. Drawing on the diary of her Oregon ancestor, Fisher paints a merciless frontier filled with hostile Indians, traders, soldiers, and would-be settlers while appreciating the magnificent beauty of the Western landscape. All agreed with Entertainment Weekly that the "heartbreaking first chapter alone is worth any number of lesser novels," but the story stalls toward the end. A few critics also laughed at the bodice-ripper affair between Lucy and James. But Fisher’s graceful, poetic prose stands in a class all its own.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


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Customer Reviews

The characters are well developed and believable, the prose pull of visual imagery.
Susan Day
Each page is rich, so that the reader will want to slow down and read carefully to savor the beauty of the writing.
Karen Sampson Hudson
It is unfortunate in many ways that the author took the "dreamy sentence fragment" style just a bit too far.
Brad Allen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Judith C. Oswood on February 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
For the most part, I really enjoyed this book--once I got into it. Israel and Lucy Mitchell and children are headed from Iowa to Oregon. Lucy does not want to go, but she gives in to her husband, who is a descendent of Daniel Boone and has the spirit of adventure in his blood. Along the way they meet James McLaren, a man grieving the abandonment of his wife and the loss by death of his 3 children. He consents to drive one of the Mitchell's wagons. A predictable romance springs up between Lucy and James. The bulk of the story covers the daily grind of the trip in an extremely interesting way. The author's style of writing was a little hard to get used to, however. At times I found myself rereading several passages to try to get the meaning that was not readily evident. All is all, it was a great story.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Washington Reader on September 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a novel of the American West in the mid-1800s, but we're not talking cowboys. We're talking about Lucy Mitchell, a woman, a mother, uprooted from her civilized Iowa home by her second husband, Israel, to go west to the Oregon Territory. Along the way, they are met by James MacLaren, a man for whom learning to live again is nearly impossible, after the deaths of his children from disease during a harsh winter, and the desertion of him by his Indian wife with another man.

I don't want to spoil the storyline for you, but suffice to say, this is an incredible read. Lean. Gorgeous. Prose near poetry. Fisher's evocation of the landscape and brutal beauty here in the Pacific North West is spot on. There isn't an ounce of fat in this book; Fisher has carved the beauty from the stone and shows it to us, unadorned and unapologetically. Don't expect to be spoonfed, either; this is a book where the author expects you to be able to draw conclusions from facts left like coins in a fountain. It is literary fiction at its finest. Please enjoy, and support a new woman author whose rich voice needs to be heard and shared.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Helen Mckay Sanders on September 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I was very impressed by this woman's first novel. The lyricism of the language was striking, and best of all, her writing style brought a quality of fierce beauty to the characters and the landscape that I found uplifting and powerful.

Also, the sex scenes are gorgeous and erotic. I am a big fan of Cormac McCarthy as well, but this woman's prose leaves you with a strong sense of possibility and hope; McCarthy's prose is darker and more angst-ridden.

I recommend this book heartily. Its originality is remarkable.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Aunt Jenny on September 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved the author's writing style.I found myself seeing everything as she described it..no fluff..which I loved for a change. Her raw, lean descriptions of the way things were for this group of characters was so real and accurate that it made for a great read. I found myself having such empathy for Lucy and McLaren and even for Lucy's husband...but understanding why it ended the way it did. I just loved every bit of this book..would recomend it to anyone who loves true history, and the outdoors and dosn't mind getting dirty.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Danton M. on November 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
A close friend recommended "A Sudden Country" to me. Otherwise, I doubt that I'd have stuck to it, with its frustrating plot lines and irritating written style. I get tired of authors using sentence fragments as a way of creating immediacy or flow. At times it seemed that half of the sentences began with "Then," followed by no subject: "Then searched her mind for him," or something similar. It makes for choppy reading.

Most interesting were the passages describing the immigrants' travails and travels. Less so were the romantic passages. The conclusion jumps back and forth from Lucy Mitchell to James McLaren even more than the rest of the novel does and forced me, a very experienced reader, to reread passages to understand the events being described. At that point, though, what I wanted was to find out what was going to happen, not spend time excavating my way through fragmented prose and a convoluted story line.

I do, however, have to give credit to Fisher for not taking the easy way out with the conclusion. It's not easy to read so long, only to have an unhappy ending, but it is a satisfactory one.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By L. Willrett on March 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
If you're looking for a bodice-ripper, go in another direction. This is a serious, heavy, story with, at times, prose for narrative. Not all books are "easy reads" either in wording or subject matter. This novel is well worth the effort the reader must invest to understand each character.

Karen Fisher has captured, in my mind, the struggles and stark reality of life on the Oregon Trail. Her descriptions of even the mundane were tangible. Like other reviewers, I found myself re-reading passages not only for deeper understanding, but in sheer amazement of Fisher's way with words.

This novel is for those with an interest in history and in understanding what remains when all is stripped away in life. You might be surprised at the end.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By James F. Mihaley on October 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Karen Fisher writes about the Frontier West with such vividness and authenticity one might believe she actually lived back then and has been reincarnated. Another rare skill the author possesses is the ability to depict male and female characters with equal force and finesse. Lucy Mitchell and James MacLaren are unforgettable protagonists. The journey they embark on is spellbinding. It is fraught with a tension so intense and exquisite one can only marvel at the storytelling skills of this great new writer. If you enjoyed 'Cold Mountain' then you'll love 'A Sudden Country'.
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