Death Comes for the Archbishop

Death Comes for the Archbishop

by Willa Cather


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781727173109
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 09/11/2018
Pages: 190
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Willa Cather was probably born in Virginia in 1873, although her parents did not register the date, and it is probably incorrectly given on her tombstone. Because she is so famous for her Nebraska novels, many people assume she was born there, but Willa Cather was about nine years old when her family moved to a small Nebraska frontier town called Red Cloud that was populated by immigrant Swedes, Bohemians, Germans, Poles, Czechs, and Russians. The oldest of seven children, she was educated at home, studied Latin with a neighbor, and read the English classics in the evening. By the time she went to the University of Nebraska in 1891–where she began by wearing boy’s clothes and cut her hair close to her head–she had decided to be a writer.

After graduation she worked for a Lincoln, Nebraska, newspaper, then moved to Pittsburgh and finally to New York City. There she joined McClure’s magazine, a popular muckraking periodical that encouraged the writing of new young authors. After meeting the author Sarah Orne Jewett, she decided to quit journalism and devote herself full time to fiction. Her first novel, Alexander’s Bridge, appeared in serial form in McClure’ s in 1912. But her place in American literature was established with her first Nebraska novel, O Pioneers!, published in 1913, which was followed by her most famous pioneer novel, My Antonia, in 1918. In 1922 she won the Pulitzer Prize for one of her lesser-known books, One of Ours. Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927), her masterpiece, and Shadows on the Rock (1931) also celebrated the pioneer spirit, but in the Southwest and French Canada. Her other novels include The Song of the Lark(1915), The Professor’ s House (1925), My Mortal Enemy (1926), and Lucy Gayheart (1935). Willa Cather died in 1947.

Date of Birth:

December 7, 1873

Date of Death:

April 27, 1947

Place of Birth:

Winchester, Virginia

Place of Death:

New York, New York


B.A., University of Nebraska, 1895

What People are Saying About This

A. S. Byatt

What intrigues me about [Cather] is the intelligence with which she combines her formidable learning in European art and literature with her 'new' uniformed or formless American subjects, the settlers and pioneers with their unrecorded lives and their diverse heritages.

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Death Comes for the Archbishop 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
carlosmock More than 1 year ago
Death Comes to The Archbishop by Willa Cather, 1927. The primary character is Bishop Jean Marie Latour, who travels with his friend and vicar Joseph Vaillant from Sandusky, Ohio to New Mexico to take charge of the newly established diocese of New Mexico, which has only just become a territory of the United States. At the time of his departure, Cincinnati is the end of the railway line west, so Latour must travel by riverboat to the Gulf of Mexico, and thence overland to New Mexico, a journey which takes an entire year. He spends the rest of his life establishing the Roman Catholic church in New Mexico, where he dies in old age. The novel is notable for its portrayal of two well-meaning and devout French priests who encounter a well-entrenched Spanish-Mexican clergy they are sent to supplant when the United States acquired New Mexico and the Vatican, in turn, remapped its dioceses. Several of these entrenched priests are depicted in classic manner as examples of greed, avarice and gluttony, while others live simple, abstemious lives among the Native Americans. Cather portrays the Hopi and Navajo sympathetically, and her characters express the near futility of overlaying their religion on a millennia-old native culture. Cather's vivid landscape descriptions are also memorable. A scene where a priest and his Native American guide take cover in an ancient cave during a blizzard is especially memorable for its superb portrayal of the combined forces of nature and culture. The only reason I give the book three stars is that the prose is only a narrative. She never shows anything, only tells.... There is no action to speak of. Ms. Cather sometimes covers years in one sentence, and other times writes paragraphs for one minute. The book reads easy and since I've traveled the areas described, I found it interesting.
Melissa_W More than 1 year ago
I have come to love (and expect) the beautiful nature descriptions in Willa Cather's books and "Death Comes for the Archbishop" is no exception. Cather captures both the wonder and desolation of nineteenth-century southwestern US/northwestern Mexico borderlands in a book that also explores the life choices of a man devoted to serving God. The only stumbling point I encountered was that I expected more plot than was given (the novel is entirely character-driven) but once I adjusted my expectations I had no futher issues with the novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book by accident, thankfully so; it has become one of my favorites. This book gives us a glimpse of the goodness that can be found in humanity, it expresses our desire to strive for something higher than ourselves.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved the story, the imagery, and the characters. I found myself going back and rereading pages just to savor the descriptions. Cather is truly a poet. I'm a better human for having read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of Cather's lesser known works, but exceptional nonetheless.  This book is definitely one of the top 100 American novels.  Enjoy!
ctpress on LibraryThing 21 days ago
I do not see you as you really are, Joseph; I see you through my affection for you.This is not a novel of plot - which one finds out along the dusty way - it's more a chronicle of various events of two french catholic missionaries - which Willa Cather have based on two real life characters.The story covers several decades beginning in 1851 when Father Latour reaches Santa Fe to become Vicar Apostolic of New Mexico. The task is daunting - trying to recover and rebuild their french version of the Catholic Church in the midst of superstitious Indians, pioneer Americans and worldly Spaniards. There's several setbacks and incredible long travels on mule in their "jurisdiction" - one has to admire their devotion and sacrifice (still while maintaining the french love for good food and wine, music and art)I found it historically very interesting - the conflict of cultures and religions - I loved the sense of place, Cather's dreamlike poetic prose, the descriptions of the barren, desolate landscape - so, ok it's a western of sorts - and really at it's center a story about a long-lasting beautiful friendship (although they are quite different), about loneliness being far from home - but finding a new home and a new sense of belonging. Specially the last part of the book is a very simple, yet emotional conclusion of two lives - lived well and faithfully for the God they loved. The old man smiled. "I shall not die of a cold, my son. I shall die of having lived".
anniemktx on LibraryThing 21 days ago
This is one of only a handful of books that I will read again and again. What a pleasure to spend time each night in the company of very good men, in a place as lovely as New Mexico. Thank you for this book, Ms. Cather.
bilbo2011 on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Willa Cather referred to Death Comes for the Archbishop as more of a narrative rather than a novel, she wanted to convey the sense of time passing between the two main characters (the bishop Father Latour and his vicar Father Vaillant) against a background of cultural changes in New Mexico. The book advances more through character growth rather than plot. I was in awe with how Cather pulled me into the landscape of New Mexico through words.¿In all his travels the Bishop had seen no country like this. From the flat red sea of sand rose great rock mesas, generally Gothic in outline, resembling vast cathedrals. This plain might once have been an enormous city, all the smaller quarters destroyed by time, only the public buildings left- piles of architecture that were like mountains.¿ ~Father Latour seeing New Mexico for the first time
Pianojazz on LibraryThing 25 days ago
I love this book. But then, I grew up in the great southwest, only a few miles from the sprawling Navajo reservation.Cather paints this harsh, beautiful landscape with a delicate, precise word palette. Her sympathetic, yet restrained, portrait of Father Jean Marie Latour and his service to the native Amerindians is one of the most touching in all of literature. This novel brought tears to my eyes in more than one place.Reading it is a profound spiritual journey, one I cannot but recommend. A beautiful, important American novel.
cestovatela on LibraryThing 25 days ago
A spare, elegant story of a Catholic mission in the Southwestern United States. Eight years after I read it, it's hard to remember the details but I know I loved the simple prose and the character-driven storyline.
samantha464 on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Tis book was so much better than I had expected! Beautifully, lovingly written, with amazing descriptions of the American southwest before it was really "American." The characters are so fully developed that they became real for me, and the slow build towards the quiet death at the end was effective and emotional without being at all trite. Loved it!
auntmarge64 on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Maybe because I'm spoiled by recently reading "I Heard the Owl Call My Name", this didn't strike me as forcefully as, say, Cather's "O Pioneers!". Still, it's beautifully written, with Cather's love of landscape very evident. Unlike her other works which are equally famous "My Antonia", "One of Ours", and "O Pioneers!", which are located on the Plains, this story takes place in the deserts of New Mexico and surrounding areas. In 1848, two young French priests are appointed to the newly American New Mexico Territory to organize and spread the Catholic faith. Father Latour (recently made bishop) and his friend and vicar Father Vaillant make the long journey from Ohio, where they have been serving. They face hostile Indians and Mexicans as well as a beautiful but difficult and strange land. Between them they start visiting towns, hamlets, Indian villages and homesteads throughout the southwest, making converts of some, enemies of others. Travel is extremely dangerous because of sandstorms, snow storms, outlaws, and long stretches without shelter, companionship or water. Father Vaillant proves especially adept at learning languages and appealing to everyone meets, while Father Latour, the more complicated and educated of the two, must battle to make his vision for the region become reality. He is accepting of almost all and makes friends with Kit Carson and many others, but he is plagued with depression and a recurring fear that his faith is meaningless even as he struggles to reinstate celibacy and understand Indian life and religion and how they intersect with Christianity. The Navajos and other natives are presented quite sympathetically, the Spanish-Mexican priests he was sent to guide and/or replace much less kindly. Based on the life of the first Archbishop of Santa Fe, Jean-Baptiste Lamy.
krbrancolini on LibraryThing 25 days ago
"Death Comes for the Archbishop" is a book to be savored. It's one of those books that begs the reader to slow down. Other LT reviewers have mentioned the pace of the book and the vivid description of landscapes and people of the Southwest. I flagged the same passages in my copy of the book! In the edition that I read A.S. Byatt quotes Cather as saying that she wanted to write about the Southwest and came to believe that the story of the Catholic Church in the region was the most interesting way to approach the topic. The whole impact of religions -- native religions and Christianity -- is a fascinating aspect of the book. But I was most intrigued by the contrast between the two main characters, Bishop Latour and Vicar Vaillant. Despite their differences in personality and temperament, they are life-long friends. The reader sees Vaillant through the eyes of Latour, which led me to wonder about Vaillant's feelings about Latour. Vaillant left France to become a missionary with Latour, although it meant an anguished separation from his family, but his feelings for Latour are never revealed. Toward the end of the book the reader receives one small hint; a teardrop falling on a letter. It's probably obvious by now that I loved this book. I was drawn in and held by it. It's only 300 pages and I wanted it to go on forever. I haven't read Cather since I was 14 years old. I'm afraid to read other works because I don't want this one pushed from my mind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you have any interest in the history of the Southwest, particularly New Mexico, you need to read this book! Among other things, it helped me to understand the strong French Catholic influence I've found in this region. To get a real grasp of this area & this period, I suggest reading Blood & Thunder (by Hampton Sides, historic non-fiction) first, one of the best books I've read in recent years! aj west
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Our Book Club liked this a lot. It ranked sixth out of 40+ books we've read in the past three years.
ScienceWonk More than 1 year ago
Heartbreakingly beautiful.  A must read.  A cherished favorite.  Perfect for reading aloud.
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