Lisa's Reviews > Death Comes for the Archbishop

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
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's review
May 29, 2011

really liked it

I read this book some years ago and it didn't exactly reel me in at the time. But I picked it up again on a recent trip to New Mexico and really loved it the second time around. Perhaps it was because I was seeing the harsh desert landscape Will Cather describes so beautifully and learning about the history that serves as a backdrop to this novel. We even visited the San Miguel Mission where the real bishop lived and the dramatic cathedral that was his legacy. I guess having those visuals so fresh in my mind helped me "get" this book a little better.

There's not much of a plot to Death Comes for the Archbishop, which may be what I was looking for the first time I read it. It's just a quiet portrait of a truly amazing place and a good man who does the best he can with the difficult task he's given – to reform the fractured and corrupt diocese and reinvigorate the faith among the Mexicans and Native Americans who occupy the New Mexican territory.

I appreciated the respect with which she wrote about the native cultures, her sympathetic characters, and her wonderful descriptions of the desert landscape. But what I loved most in this re-reading was the way Cather's simple, matter-of-fact style and the vast, epic setting gave me a feeling of serenity. Difficult to describe in any tangible way, but that feeling made Death such a pleasure to read.

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