Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996

A Literary Guild Alternate


As she proved in her first novel, Little Jordan, Youmans can employ lyrical prose and a terse narrative to produce powerful writing. . . . Catherwood’s staunchness in the face of death earns her a ravishing and near-miraculous ending, a second rescue, as it were.  This is a subtle but magnetic novel, at once a fable, a historical romance (with time and place authentically and indelibly rendered) and a study of motherhood’s most primitive impulses . . .

--starred review, * Publishers Weekly, 3/4/96


In her second novel, Marly Youmans has created a work of great lyrical beauty and spiritual grace. . . . Youmans develops both character and landscape with quiet emotional power. . . . Youmans renders the wild, rich landscape and the intensifying relationship between Catherwood and her daughter with an exquisite austerity that transcends sentimentality or melodrama.

--The Washington Post Book World  9/14/97


. . . Feeling herself “the newest of all created things,” the young woman confronts her new home, outside Albany, with a keen eye for the “lovely-fierce” sensuousness of nature.  Then one day she and her daughter become lost in the wilderness, and for months they wander about, trying to find their way.  Through her harrowing ordeal, Catherwood learns to divest herself of sentiment and fear, including the fear of “man judgment,” until she comes to understand that there are “many roads through wilderness, many paths to the city.”  In describing this process, Ms. Youmans’s language is trenchant, graceful and, in places, sumptuously archaic, filled with a richness that provides more than just period color.  Her prodigious powers of description render with acuity both small moments and large:  the sea crossing, childbirth, snowfall, the slitting of a fawn’s throat, the “rammish” stench of a trapper.  Ms. Youmans has written a subtle, intelligent novel about one of the most enduring issues in the American experiment:  how to embrace “the world and God” as “better” than men dream.

--Philip Gambone, The New York Times Book Review  5/26/96


. . . It is a tale that offers suspense, happiness, and tragedy, and Youmans tells it in a style that complements it as handsomely as musical accompaniment.  Neither laconic nor gorgeous, her sentences deliver narrative and atmosphere in careful, easy phrases.   . . . The considerable power of “Catherwood” lies in its portrait of its heroine, in its vision of society as a frail pulse of life in a stony loneliness, and in its unobtrusively beautiful language.  This novel is one more proof that serious artistry can make serious themes entrancing reading.

--Fred Chappell, The Raleigh News & Observer  6/23/96

Following an impressively honed debut novel about an adolescent girl, Little Jordan, Youmans defeats the traditional second-novel slump with an equally spare but even more overpowering tale, this one transporting the reader back in time to a century before the Revolutionary War in colonial New York. . . . The psychology of fear and grief is immaculately played out against a wonderfully created backdrop of threatening wilderness.

--Brad Hooper, Booklist 5/15/96

This beautiful little book brings to life a 17th century woman and her world with such warmth and clarity that all sense of distance disappears. . . . A lovely book despite its tragic theme, Ms. Youmans’ second novel is a small masterpiece indeed. 

--Barbara Hodge Hall, The Anniston Star  6/23/96

Featured in:  Lyda Adamson's American Historical Fiction: An Annotated Guide.  Catherwood was published for an adult audience but has been featured on many middle and high school book lists; it is also included in John T. Gillespie's Best Books for Young Teen Readers: Grades 7-10.

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