Death Comes for the Archbishop was first published in 1927 and although it has been hailed as the greatest novel about Roman Catholicism written, it was written by Protestant Willa Cather. The novel is as much an ode to the beauty of Catholicism as it is to the beauty of New Mexico in the mid-19th century.
Father Jean-Marie Latour travels west to begin his humble mission work in the American Southwest. He is awed by the beauty of the landscape and the spirit of the people and the descriptions of each leave the reader equally in awe.
With his native guide, Jacinto, he travels to three pueblos: Isleta, Laguna and Acoma. The landscapes of the three are described with a romantic tone and vivid detail, “The plain was there, under one’s feet, but what one saw when one looked about was that brilliant blue world of stinging air and moving cloud. Even the mountains were mere anthills under it. Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky,” and the reader can easily picture the white adobe cathedrals and towering rock formations as you journey with them.
Death does come at the end, in heartfelt passages that bring tears to your eyes. Cather’s novel is an emotional read that will stay with you long after you’ve finished it.