This Widowed Land

This Widowed Land

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by Kathleen O'Neal Gear

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Lovely Andiora is a Huron Indian in seventeenth-century North America. A seeress with a bond to the spirit world, she has beheld a frightening vision-of a blond man in a black robe, whose coming will bring death and despair to her people.

Father Marc Dupre is a French missionary who has come to Quebec to preach Christianity. He is not prepared for his own


Lovely Andiora is a Huron Indian in seventeenth-century North America. A seeress with a bond to the spirit world, she has beheld a frightening vision-of a blond man in a black robe, whose coming will bring death and despair to her people.

Father Marc Dupre is a French missionary who has come to Quebec to preach Christianity. He is not prepared for his own growing love for Andiora, an attraction she shares with all her heart.

But more than a forbidden union threatens them both. A mysterious epidemic is devastating the Hurons, and vengeful shamans blame the "Black Robes" from Europe, crying out for the priests' deaths.

Menaced by war and disease, torn between their desires and their sacred callings, Marc and Andiora struggle to find peace and fulfillment.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The coauthor of the Prehistoric America series ( People of the River ) pens an absorbing if uneven tale about Jesuit missionaries who set their single, jealous god against the animal spirit guides and gods worshiped by the Huron Indians. Gear develops harsh, powerful descriptions of 17th-century Quebec, replete with blowing snow, starvation, the war cries of enemy Iroquois and a plague that, ironically, spreads along with the Jesuits' gospel. Sadly, the three Black Robes who anchor the plot--saintly, simple Phillipe; foppish whiner Luc; and steely Marc, tormented by love for Huron visonary Andiora--are static and two-dimensional. On the other hand, their leader, Jean de Brebeuf, a historical figure, has sufficient quirks and contradictions to make him seem genuine. Several others stand out, too: a blunt, roisterous French trader, an envious Huron shaman , and gritty young Onrea, who survives horrific ordeals. Gear is better at research than at imaginative writing; her use of period detail breathes life into daily events at the Huron village, and her depictions of cannibalistic torture are chilling. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Father Marc Dupre, a young Jesuit priest charged with converting the Huron Indians, arrives in New France in 1636. The Jesuit approach is to graft Christian belief onto the Hurons' religion, so Marc and his fellow priests adopt native customs and do not interfere with their repugnant practice of torturing their Iroquois enemies. Marc's mission is complicated by his attraction to his Huron translator, Andiora, a woman with powerful visions, and the animosity of Luc Penchant, a more traditional European missionary who views everything in the New World as the work of Satan and Marc's accommodation of indigenous beliefs as demonic. Veteran novelist Gear ( Sand in the Wind , Tor, 1990, etc.) provides strong descriptions of the Huron way of life, Marc's ambivalence about his priestly vows and his love for Andiora, as well as some gruesome torture scenes. Recommended for large libraries.-- Mary Ann Parker, California Dept. of Water Resources Law Lib., Sacramento
Denise Perry Donavin
With the Columbus quincentenary, stories of the exploration and the exploitation have swamped the shelves in 1992; but here is another worthy of note. A trio of Jesuits, deemed "Black Robes" for their attire, set sail from France for the New World, where they will join Father Brebeuf in his mission to convert the natives. The three are unlikely cohorts: Marc is a converted Huguenot; Luc is a cold, holier-than-thou aristocrat; and Phillipe is a slow-witted man blessed with visions and an incredible sensitivity toward animals (a quality that will save his life when he is captured and tortured by the Iroqouis). As the men settle uneasily into a Huron village, they face many challenges, including struggles with the Huron shaman and a smallpox epidemic. Overlying their holy quest is the belief that the Indians are somehow part of the Lost Tribes of Israel and their conversion will precipitate Armageddon. Gear writes with intense historic detail and attempts, with considerable success, to tell the tale from both the Hurons' and the missionaries' perspectives. A concluding note fills in the actual events upon which the novel is based.
From the Publisher
"Absorbing...Harsh, powerful descriptions of 17th-century Quebec...horrific ordeals. Breathes life into daily events at the Huron village." -Publishers Weekly

"Strong descriptions of the Huron way of life, Marc's ambivalence about his priestly vows and his love for Andiora...Recommended." -Library Journal

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This Widowed Land

By Kathleen O'Neal Gear

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 1990 Kathleen O'Neal Gear
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-1850-7


Our hope is in God and Our Lord Jesus Christ who shed His blood for the salvation of the Hurons as well as for the rest of the world. It is through His support, and not our own efforts, that we hope one day to see here a flourishing of Christianity. ... All we have to fear is our own sins and imperfections, and I more than all. Indeed, I judge myself most unworthy of this employment. Send to us those who are saintly ...

Very humble and obedient servant in Our Lord,


The last crimson rays of sunset slanted through the Soleil's rigging and threw a bronze spiderweb across the weathered deck at Marc Dupre's feet. He studied the design as he walked toward the railing. His mind roiled with excitement, worry, and the bittersweet sense that he was saying farewell to home and country. He'd left his two charges, Father Luc Penchant and Brother Phillipe Raimont, to finish unpacking while he came up to watch the final preparations before they set sail. He wanted to remember each detail of his journey to the New World, to tuck these scenes into the corners of his soul, where he kept all precious memories.

High above him, the radiant light burned a golden halo around the furled sails and gleamed off the polished hardwood spars. A grand, three-masted sailing vessel, the Soleil rocked gently, creaking with the motion of the water. Sailors rushed by Marc, cursing, calling commands while they cast off the lines that tethered the Soleil to the water-worn quay of Dieppe. The musky sea breeze brought exotic aromas of saffron, cinnamon and cloves drifting from the white stone walls of the quayside warehouses.

Marc stopped for a moment. In the distance, the waning July sunlight shimmered on the green, rolling hills of France and flashed from the wings of a nightingale that dove over the city. His eyes tightened with longing. A tall man of twenty-six, he had blond hair and deep-set blue eyes that always seemed a little wistful. His straight nose and full lips were framed by a beard and mustache.

I'll never leave you. ... The words echoed around in his mind, sounding more forlorn than the day he'd spoken them. Images of Marie's face rose. Crystal clear. As though they had been carved into the bones of his soul. She smiled at him, her eyes twinkling. Marc bowed his head and absently listened to the lapping of the waves against the barnacled hull. He had never been more than a few miles from her grave. How would he feel when this ship sailed out into the vast ocean? This is something. I must do, Marie. Forgive me. ...

When he reached the railing, he braced his hands on the moist wood. Cabbage leaves, bottles, bits of moldy bread, and other refuse bobbed in the current below — denizens of harbors everywhere.

"Ho! Marleaux!" a man dressed in tattered brown livery shouted as he stamped down the deck. Greasy straggles of dark hair draped his bearded face. "Get that rigging stowed or Mongrave'll be heaving you overboard!"

"Sacré, Jameson!" a lanky and sun-blackened sailor responded as he tackled a pile of cordage. "René said he'd be doing —"

"I'll not hear any excuses. Just do it!" Jameson pointed a stern finger and swaggered off, shouting at others.

Men hustled to obey, climbing up the shrouds to balance precariously on the yards, rushing to ready the sails. Voices rose and fell as rowboats moved into position to tow the Soleil out to sea.

The crew intrigued Marc. A curious blend of French, Dutch, Irish, and Englishmen, they mixed phrases from each language as though unaware that a difference existed. And they seemed to have developed an extensive profane vocabulary all their own. The Jesuit provincial, Etienne Binet, made a point of selecting men for the New World who had a talent for languages — Marc spoke four, including a few words of Huron — but certainly Binet had not expected this sort of training ground.

On shore, men watched as the Soleil was towed out of the inner basin of Dieppe, past the long jetties and breakwaters, beginning its two-month voyage. A stooped old woman who had been fishing in one of the shallow inlets waved. Marc hastily lifted a hand in return.

A man with a booming voice stood up in the crow's nest and sang a bawdy song that compared the swells of the ocean to a woman's breasts. Raucous laughter sounded. A little man standing atop the forecastle, which the sailors called the foc'sle, broke into a happy jig.

The rowboats hauled them out into the depths and cast loose. Sailors shouted crude farewells as the small craft edged out of the way and headed back to shore. Marc's gaze caressed the coastline. It rose like a blue-green fortress wall. Faint sounds carried from Dieppe: A horse whinnied, a lonesome bell tolled the hour, a blacksmith's hammer clanged.

As the sailors hoisted the sails, the Soleil took hold of the wind and proudly rode out on the retreating tide. Marc sank against the railing, unable to pull his eyes away from the land. He didn't know how long he stood there, lost in memories of a country he would never see again, but eventually France blurred and became a pale blue apparition that haunted the horizon. When home finally faded to nothingness, he awoke from his reverie to find that night had draped the sea. Constellations gleamed dimly in the indigo sky. The crew had lit and hung lanterns around the deck. Oh, Marie ...

A hollow thudding of boots approached from Marc's right. He turned. Against the golden background of swaying lanterns, a huge man stood. Marc guessed his age to be about forty. Black hair whipped around his shoulders to tangle in his bushy beard. He wore a plain white blouse, loosely laced at the throat, and black pants that were tucked into the tops of his knee-high boots. His bent nose appeared to have weathered one too many brawls.

"Good God Almighty," the man said in English, casually taking God's name in vain. "Ease me mind, will you? Tell me you're not Father Marc Dupre."

"Sorry." Marc straightened, shifting his mind from French to English. "I am."

"But you're so young! Too young to be leading a group of holier-than-thous into the wilderness of New France."

"Excuse me. Do I know you, sir?"

The man propped his hands on his hips and squinted one eye. "I'm Pierre Mongrave, owner and master of this vessel. ... Perhaps I should have said the empty-headed owner of this vessel. Only a man lacking wits would agree to transport Jesuits. Once you get to New France, you'll see what I'm speaking of. I've been trying to figure out what sort of shenanigans I'll be put to if Pryor, the commandant of Quebec, won't let you set foot in the New World."

"Why wouldn't he? We were authorized to come by the viceroy, by Monsieur Samuel de Champlain and the directors —"

"Aye, but Pryor'll be considering such facts trifling irritations when the subject is Catholics. He's a Huguenot, in case you don't know. From La Rochelle." Mongrave uttered the words like a challenge to a duel.

"Is he?" Marc held Mongrave's fierce gaze. "Then I can understand his hatred. I was at the siege of La Rochelle, Monsieur."

La Rochelle had been a great victory for political and Catholic officials. It had taken fourteen months for Richelieu, King Louis XIII's brilliant chief minister, to overwhelm the population of the Protestant stronghold. He had done it by constructing a great jetty to seal off La Rochelle's harbor from the sea. Hundreds of "heretics" had been trapped and slaughtered in the streets. Scenes of the battle struggled to rise up from the burial ground in Marc's soul. He forced them away.

Mongrave looked Marc over from head to toe as though reluctantly reassessing his original opinion. "Before or after you took these robes? Whose side were you fighting on?"


Mongrave lifted his brows. "Since you didn't wed yourself to the papist pigs, I take it that you've not always been a Catholic?"

"No. I'm a convert."

"Well, if La Rochelle could turn you Catholic, you sure were not much of a Protestant. I'd —"

"I assume you're a Calvinist, Monsieur, since you seem to share Commandant Pryor's sentiments about Catholicism," Marc said, wondering at the man's open hostility. When he'd been in Paris, he'd been briefed on the history of the Soleil New World Trading Company and Monsieur Mongrave — a colorful character, to say the least. The trader had been run out of half a dozen countries for ethical misconduct, delivering tainted goods, cheating clients, but he apparently kept quiet on all political and religious issues, and guaranteed the safety of those he chose to transport. In these dangerous times, such a guarantee was rare, and the reason he continued to have paying passengers aboard. "Monsieur, if you hate Catholics so much, why did you agree to take us to New France and then on to the Huron village where Father Brebeuf is preaching?"

Mongrave's white teeth glinted suddenly. "I'd be selling me own soul if the devil offered as pretty a sum as you Jesuits did. But let's get an understanding here at the start. I've business to tend in Three Rivers. I'll not be taking you the entire way. A friend of mine, Huron and a woman," he whispered insidiously, as if it should bother Marc, "will escort you. You'll be spending time with a tame family of Montagnais Indians. I'll be rejoining you a few days before you strike the crossroads that lead to Brebeuf's village."

The ocean had grown rougher. The Soleil soared up on dark, glassy crests before plunging down into foamy valleys. Marc clutched the railing and bent his knees. "That will be fine, Monsieur."

"Aye, of course it will, cause that's the way 'tis going to be."

Marc cocked his head, curious. "Monsieur, do you hate all priests, or just Jesuits?"

"At this particular moment?" Mongrave appeared to be pondering the question. "I'm of a mind to hate just the Jesuits. But if you'd asked me a few years ago, I'd have cited the Recollets. 'Tis not priests, so much, you understand. I hate any high-handed evangelist heading to the New World to spout Jesus-this and Jesus-that."

"We are warriors in our Lord's battle for the salvation of souls, Monsieur. The End of the World is rapidly approaching. The seventh chapter of the Book of Revelation says that in the last days, the lost tribes of Israel will reappear. When Christopher Columbus discovered the New World and found —"

"Oh, Lord." Mongrave massaged his forehead. "You're not thinking that the Indians of the New World are the lost tribes, are you? That's pure hogwash, Dupre. The Jews have a written language, the Indians don't. Circumcision is unknown in the New World. The Indians —"

"The Indians may have lost all memory of their Jewish origins, Monsieur, but that doesn't mean they aren't the lost tribes."

The finest scholars in Europe had proven that ten of the twelve tribes of Israel had not returned from their exile in Assyria. God had promised them much affliction as punishment for their sins, and it was widely held that IV Kings 17:6 meant that the tribes had been driven into Asia, and from there crossed a "bridge" that led into the New World. Catholicism was still largely divided over whether or not the Indians were in fact the lost tribes, but few doubted that if they were, and could be converted, it would bring about the End of the World.

Marc said, "Chapter sixteen of the Book of Marc directs us to 'go out all over the world and preach the gospel to all creation.' The Jews will be the last to be converted, Monsieur. But when that's accomplished, Judgment Day will come."

"Well, you'll be waiting a mighty long time, Dupre, because you won't convert the Indians. The Huron don't care in the slightest for your brand of salvation. They've got their own religion, which serves them plenty well. They hold themselves to be the children of a goddess named Aataentsic." Mongrave grinned. "I bet you'll be taking a shine to her. She's the spitting image of your Old Testament God — kills men and brings them disease."

Annoyed, Marc said, "No man can enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless he is cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, Mongrave. I can see that you're hell-bent, but please don't deny the savages their chance for salvation."

Mongrave's eyes widened in mock amazement. "Well, what have we here? You're a different sort, aren't you, Father? Blunt at least." The trader caressed his beard thoughtfully. Behind him, spray glimmered from the decks like a wintry sheet of ice. "Tell me something. How is it you've lasted so long in a wallow of men who wouldn't say boo to a rock?"

"I don't think you know Jesuits very well, Monsieur. My fellows and I are certainly much —"

"No, you are not alike, Dupre. And if you don't know it yet, I'm sorry for you. Getting back to the Huron. 'Tis a foul weight on them to be thinking of your notion of heaven. They dream of going to the Village of Souls, where there's good hunting, playing, and fornicating to a man's content."

"I studied the Huron at the College of Rouen, Monsieur. I know some of what they believe. Father Brebeuf's reports have taught us much about —"

"Brebeuf!" Mongrave uttered the name like a profanity. "God save us. Well, if you've taken to believing Jean's reports like the gospel itself, you're sure to be getting killed the first year. Which" — he nodded approvingly — "all considered, would be a fine thing."

"Do you know Father Brebeuf?"


"You don't like him?"

Mongrave lounged back against the railing, and black hair danced wildly around his face. "You did not hear me say I wasn't fond of the rogue. 'Tis just a fact that Brebeuf is a scourge in New France, and what he's doing to the Huron and Montagnais should be a hanging offense."

"And just what is he doing?"

"Christianizing them! And that's the same as killing their souls. But one of your ilk would not grasp what I'm saying."

Marc folded his arms abruptly. "No, I wouldn't. Father Brebeuf is the reason I'm on your ship, Monsieur. He called for help to save the souls in the New World, and since he is a very great and holy man —"

"Oh, is he now?" Mongrave chuckled. "Well, you're in for a good sight more than you know, Dupre. About Jean, I mean."

Marc shifted uncomfortably, offended, wondering just what that meant. The silence stretched. The wood beneath Marc's boots groaned and creaked. The shrouds twanged in the rising wind. The scents of wet hemp, tar and turpentine competed with the salty flavor that clung at the back of his throat.

Mongrave shook his head and sighed as he gazed up at the few stars that frosted the heavens. "The reason I came out here, Dupre, was not to talk theology, but to speak to you about one of your charges — the little fat one. He's been driving me to distraction."

Marc turned suddenly. "Brother Phillipe Raimont?"

"Aye, that's the one. Me crew wasted half the afternoon chasing him away from the galley. He's been robbing from the hardtack to feed the birds that scavenge 'round the ship. I watched him all day, giggling to himself like one of the mindless, tossing bits of bread into the air and watching the gulls dive for them."

"He's just a simple soul, Monsieur. He loves animals and everything and everyone. I'll talk to him. I'm sure he didn't mean to take the hardtack."

"I'd not argue about that, Dupre. Raimont doesn't seem to have enough of a mind to know what he's doing from one instant to the next. I'll never understand the way the Catholics think. Why would the Jesuit provincial be selecting a man such as him for a mission to the New World? Etienne Binet must know the horrors and privations of the wilderness. I'd be much surprised if Brebeuf hadn't been moaning on it for years."

A crescent moon had edged over the waves. It cast a gleaming silver shawl across the water. Marc felt anxious and uneasy over discussing Phillipe with a man like Mongrave. Phillipe was special. The records in Marc's baggage detailed the times that Phillipe had been graced with stigmata, and his hands and side still bore healing scars from a recent episode. How could anyone be so pure and sinless that God would grant him the wounds of Christ?


Excerpted from This Widowed Land by Kathleen O'Neal Gear. Copyright © 1990 Kathleen O'Neal Gear. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Kathleen O'Neal Gear is a former state historian and archaeologist for Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska for the U.S. Department of the Interior. She has twice received the federal government's Special Achievement Award for "outstanding management" of our nation's cultural heritage.

Kathleen O'Neal Gear and her husband, W. Michael Gear are co-authors of the First North American Series and Anasazi Mystery Series (USA Today bestsellers) and live in Thermopolis, Wyoming.

Kathleen O'Neal Gear is a former state historian and archaeologist for Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska for the U.S. Department of the Interior. She has twice received the federal government's Special Achievement Award for "outstanding management" of our nation's cultural heritage. With her husband, W. Michael Gear, she is the co-author of many books, including the North America’s Forgotten Past series (People of the Longhouse, The Dawn Country, People of the Mist, People of the Wolf, among others); and the Anasazi Mysteries series. She and her husband live in Thermopolis, WY.

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This Widowed Land 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read almost everything written by the Gears and one of the only complaints I have had is when they delve into unreal magic spirtuality and treat it as though it really happened. This book goes deeper than any of the others to include a great deal of Christian magic. The scientists in them should work with truth, I understand the effect spirituality has in peoples lives but when the story focuses on those things and treat them as though they actually happened, you loose me.