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Death Comes for the Archbishop ()

The Image Top 100 Books of the Century

Father Jean Marie Latour comes to New Mexico in 1851 to reestablish the Church's control over the Catholic community in America's newly acquired South West.   Over the next forty years, he & his cohorts battle the landscape, corruption and indifference to restore the place of the Church in the lives of the local Indians, Mexicans and Americans.

This is a spare & simple story, which is both a strength and a weakness.  Oddly missing from the tale are God and Jesus Christ.  We admire the faith that sustains the priests in their work, but what is it that they have faith in?  Why does this faith have the power to maintain them against all hardships?

Because these questions remain unasked, let alone unanswered, the book is ultimately unsatisfying.


Grade: (C)


Willa Cather Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Willa Cather
-ETEXT: “The Bookkeeper’s Wife,” Willa Cather (Library of America)
    -PODCAST: Good Story 274: Death Comes to the Archbishop (A Good Story is Hard to Find, 1/25/22)
-ESSAY: The Permanence of Humanism (Bradley J. Birzer, May 1, 2017, Modern Age)
    -ESSAY: Never-Ending Nostalgia: Who and What Inspired Willa Cather: Benjamin Taylor on the Early Years of America's Chronicler of the Great Plains (Benjamin Taylor, November 15, 2023, LitHub)
    -ESSAY: Did Truman Capote plagiarize Breakfast at Tiffany’s from Willa Cather? (Janet Manley, March 28, 2023, LitHub)
    -ESSAY: Looking at Willa Cather’s Lesbian Partnership and Domestic World: The Lesser-Told Story of Cather and Edith Lewis (Melissa Homestead, May 18, 2022, Lit Hub)
    -ESSAY: Finding Inspiration in Willa Cather’s Belief in the Necessity of Art: Ladette Randolph on Cather’s Romanticized Plots and Fierce Intelligence (Ladette Randolph, March 7, 2022, LitHub)
    -ARCHIVES: Willa Cather (New Criterion)
    -REVIEW: of O, Pioneers by Willa Cather (The Complete Review)
    -REVIEW: of Chasing Bright Medusas: A Life of Willa Cather by Benjamin Taylor (Anne Matthews, American Scholar)
    -REVIEW: of Chasing Bright Medusas (Joseph Epstein, Free Beacon)

Book-related and General Links:
-Literary Research Guide: Willa Cather (1873 - 1947)
    -ESSAY: Which authors, or books, do not enjoy the standing they deserve? Continuing our series on underrated reputations, the novelist Joyce Carol Oates nominates Willa Cather (Books Online, UK Telegraph)
    -ESSAY : Willa Cather’s Archbishop : Maria Stella Ceplecha tells the story of Jean Baptiste Lamy, the real-life prelate who provided the inspiration for Death Comes to the Archbishop (Crisis)
    -READING GROUP GUIDE : My Antonia by Willa Cather (Random House)
    -REVIEW : of Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism by Joan Acocella (Terry Castle, London Review of Books)
    -ESSAY: Junípero Serra and the Founding of the West (PATRICK M. LAURENCE, 7/08/20, Crisis)
    -ESSAY: The Black Legend Lives: ‘Escalante’s Dream’ (Jeremy Beer,July 1, 2020, Commonweal)


I read this book for class, and it was one fo the worst books I have read yet. It was unfruitful and uninteresting. I almost killed myself while reading it. The characters were undeveloped, causing you not to care about them at all, and then it went on about them and their uninteresting lives for pages upon pages. After the boring drone of their lives, they were dead in one sentence. No explination or anything, just, this person died. WOW, it was horrible. I absolutely hated it. I was in a bad mood after reading it, so I went and read some wonderful Jack London. Now there is a man who knows how to write.

- Me

- Mar-02-2005, 17:08


The book is not aimed at explaining the Catholic faith to readers - a Catholic reading the book is entirely aware of what in the faith sustained the bishop's work and allowed him to do such tremendous work against all odds. Many early missionaries were this tenacious and successful. If one is truly curious what the main characters believed in look no further than the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other writings like encyclicals etc.. The Church is the same today as it was then - The teaching on Christ, on faith, morals etc.. has not changed. Same yesterday, today and tomorrow -- try it you'll like it! God bless you, in Christ.

- Carla

- Oct-06-2004, 17:17


I love the book it was real neat I reccommend it that you read it I am only 3 and I read the whole book It was real good

- blah blah

- Jan-06-2004, 16:16