After reading this book, I have an even greater desire to visit the American West. The author, Willa Cather, describes the landscapes beautifully, but that only makes me want to see them for myself.
The story focuses on Father Latour (a bishop from France) and his friend, Father Vallient (also from France). The pair of them are sent to New Mexico not long after the conclusion of the Mexican-American war. The land is still wild and travel over it difficult. The people who live there, both Native American and Mexican, are mixed in their reception of these two priests. Some welcome them with open arms. Some would be glad to see them gone. But through harsh weather, belligerent people, and personal struggles, the two priests still work to bring joy to those they serve.
The story balances the various faiths well, showing their beauty and their failings and how the people who follow them blend the different parts together to make a unique culture of belief. The priests respect their parishioners’ history and culture and the people (for the most part) love their priests. One example of this is when the bishop is caught in a bad storm with his guide. He is taken to a very holy place for the Native American and is naturally curious about his surroundings. But out of respect, he does not ask questions nor speak any denunciation, simply thanks his guide for allowing him to share the space.
The story takes its time, walking the reader through various events by flashbacks or back story. The pacing works for me, though. Like the landscape, it is in no hurry to go anywhere. It instead invites you to stop and smell the mesquite trees.
Excellent, relaxing, and enjoyable read. Highly recommend for teens and above.