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Extended Audio Sample A Sudden Country: A Novel Audiobook, by Karen Fisher Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (461 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Karen Fisher Narrator: Cassandra Campbell Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: August 2005 ISBN: 9781415925416
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A vivid and revelatory novel based on actual events of the 1847 Oregon migration, A Sudden Country follows two characters of remarkable complexity and strength in a journey of survival and redemption.

James MacLaren, once a resourceful and ambitious Hudson’s Bay Company trader, has renounced his aspirations for a quiet family life in the Bitterroot wilderness. Yet his life is overturned in the winter of 1846, when his Nez Perce wife deserts him and his children die of smallpox. In the grip of a profound sorrow, MacLaren, whose home once spanned a continent, sets out to find his wife. But an act of secret vengeance changes his course, introducing him to a different wife and mother: Lucy Mitchell, journeying westward with her family.

Lucy, a remarried widow, careful mother, and reluctant emigrant, is drawn at once to the self-possessed MacLaren. Convinced that he is the key to her family’s safe passage, she persuades her husband to employ him. As their hidden stories and obsessions unfold, and pasts and cultures collide, both Lucy and MacLaren must confront the people they have truly been, are, and may become.

Alive with incident and insight, presenting with rare scope and intimacy the complex relations among nineteenth-century traders, immigrants, and Native Americans, A Sudden Country is, above all, a heroic and unforgettable story of love and loss, sacrifice and understanding.


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Quotes & Awards

  • “Elegantly written and powerfully original: a magnificent story and a remarkable debut.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “A grand, mesmerizing novel…Fisher tells [Lucy and MacLaren’s] storires, past and present, with a poet’s sense of the sound and heft of each word. Her compassionate, unsentimental eye makes even minor characters unforgettable. She reveals the labor of running a household when there is no house; equally well, she shows us mountains of death and splendor. In the collision between household and wilderness, Fisher brilliantly illuminates both the tragedy and the new life wrought by manifest destiny. This is a great novel of the American West.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “The real fascination of this journey lies in the details of the travel itself: the stench of a wagon packed with meat, the mess of eating and sleeping. The best passages deal with treacherous river crossings, where the mighty oxen, animals seldom heard from in this modern world, must find the bottom with their clawing hooves or drown. With cliffhanger following cliffhanger, Lucy and MacLaren’s romance seems not just unlikely but gratuitous. There’s no harm in a historic novel whose scenery is more colorful than its characters, but as Lucy starts to fade from the page, we may be a little glad to see her go.”

    New York Times

  • A splendid novel, rendering a past era of America with resonant clarity and unfolding an achingly human story. Fisher also has a distinctively lovely narrative voice. This is a very impressive debut from a writer I will be delighted to follow in the years to come. Robert Olen Butler, author of Had a Good Time
  • A gorgeous and mesmerizing story of a journey. Fisher provides both the historical context and the perfect detail with equal grace. She deals in big emotions, big adventures, big landscapes, and human-size people. This is a remarkable, remarkable book and I loved every word of it. Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club
  • On every page of A Sudden Country, Karen Fisher finds a way to astonish– with her extraordinary command of period details, with her profound insights into love-tormented hearts and minds, with her style, which is both lyrical and economical. This is a magnificent debut. Larry Watson, author of Orchard and Montana 1948
  • A Sudden Country will take you to the frontiers of your heart. Let Karen Fisher’s story remind you of what we all know most deeply: Life itself–the will to survive–depends on love. Thomas Eidson, author of The Missing
  • A 2006 PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist
  • A 2005 Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Prize for First Fiction Finalist

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Becca | 2/19/2014

    " Interesting story about the Oregon trail as 40+ families leave Iowa in 1847 to cross the country in search of opportunity in Oregon. Listening rather than reading helped me enjoy more than the rest of the book group; convoluted sentence structure and cumbersome writing made many passages hard to grasp. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Deborah | 2/17/2014

    " I found this book a little hard to read. Karen Fisher is an creative wordsmith but sometimes her descriptions were so involved I didn't get the point. I also found that I didn't care as much about the characters as I would like. But it was an interesting story and I found myself thinking about it for some days afterward. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linda Lowell | 2/17/2014

    " Lyrical and magical. Out of all the things that happened to these families on the Oregon Trail, there was still hope. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Hallie | 2/8/2014

    " Good for book group "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ian Rae | 1/24/2014

    " Gave up after reading my obligatory 50 pages; narrative jumped around alot and never really felt like she got to the telling of a story. Sounded like a good read, but never really materialized. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Toni | 1/20/2014

    " I found this book compelling beyond the situation, history and plot. I was totally immersed in the story, and appreciated the complexity of the characters and their styles of communication. There was a redemtive quality that for me transcended the sorrow faced by the characters. It was a study in how we find the strength to go on, and how we forgive. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jane Greensmith | 1/17/2014

    " Beautiful writing, troublesome characters. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michele | 1/16/2014

    " wow. not sure what I thought about the ending...after all that... "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Ann | 1/13/2014

    " I didn't finish this book. I did not like her writing style. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karen | 12/13/2013

    " Really, really liked this book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Carol | 10/1/2013

    " my book group had mixed reviews for this book; I thought it was terrific - great writer. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Heidi Schutt | 8/9/2013

    " This book was moving too slowly for my mood, so I am going to try to read it another time when I am in a different mood. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Krista | 8/7/2013

    " Fiction: A family on the Oregon trail has many hardships, including infidelity "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mary | 6/27/2013

    " What could have been a fascinating journal of life on the Oregon Trail turned out to be a uninteresting story of star-crossed lovers. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Annie Michelle | 3/28/2013

    " very good, did not like the ending "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lindsay | 2/17/2013

    " pioneer novel, how people get through heartache and hardship which I knew about, but compelling. Need to read for more than 10 min increments. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Anne | 11/11/2012

    " A sad book; too sad for my sister. This is my favorite period of American history, when the west was just being settled. It is a love story but a sad and somewhat frustrating one. I loved the writing and the sense of the wild beautful country. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lynne | 9/22/2012

    " I loved this book. Very strong woman character crossing on the Oegon Trail in mid 1800's. Based on Karen Fisher's great great aunt's story. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Amanda | 9/19/2012

    " I hated the heroin in this book, as much as I despised Madam Bovary. I couldn't get past how unlikable, whiny, and ridiculous she was. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Katrina | 7/29/2012

    " My book club mostly didn't LOVE this book. They didn't hate it, but it wasn't their FAVE like it is for me. I love historical fiction though, and I think it helped that I had the flu in the middle of winter when I read it, so the opening scene seemed especially intense. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sue | 5/15/2012

    " Beautiful descriptions. I found some places a little hard to follow. The life of immigrants moving to the Oregon Territory is a humbling reminder of how little people can live on and their resilience in the face of loss and trauma. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Marvin | 3/9/2012

    " An All Iowa Reads finalist, but definitely not (to me) of All Iowa Reads caliber. Set on the Oregon Trail in 1847, it's an old-fashioned, plot-driven historical romance, though a little classier. Not bad, just not much meat to it, & I was suspicious of some of the historical detail. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Judy | 3/20/2011

    " I liked the parts of this book that articulated how it must have felt to go west and encounter the beauty and hardship of the landscape. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sue | 1/10/2011

    " Beautiful descriptions. I found some places a little hard to follow. The life of immigrants moving to the Oregon Territory is a humbling reminder of how little people can live on and their resilience in the face of loss and trauma. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Susan | 12/3/2010

    " Really beautiful prose. Certain parts of the book can be a little difficult to follow but it's worth it. Reminds me of Cold Mountain in many ways. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Heidi | 11/18/2010

    " This book was moving too slowly for my mood, so I am going to try to read it another time when I am in a different mood. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mom | 9/25/2010

    " What could have been a fascinating journal of life on the Oregon Trail turned out to be a uninteresting story of star-crossed lovers. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cindy | 8/7/2010

    " A novel about traveling the 1847 Oregon trail. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kristen | 7/19/2010

    " could not finish this one.

    writing was getting lost in the story. the story seemed interesting but i just couldn't get into. moving on to something else. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Barbara | 6/10/2010

    " A poetically written story of the Oregon Trail which is both gritty and lovely. The interwoven love story enhances the slog across the great plains; the hardships are so real, the food so disgusting, the people well rendered. Not an easy read but worth it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karen | 3/19/2010

    " Really, really liked this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kim | 3/19/2010

    " What a wonderfully written book. Almost like reading poetry. Was also interesting that even though it was a novel the story came from her ancestors. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elizabeth | 2/3/2010

    " An amazing book about the migration of a family west to Oregon in the early 1800's and the relationships between several people. Very beautiful language/writing and very vivid storytelling. Based on a true story of the author's ancestors! "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Lauren | 1/10/2010

    " Couldn't even finish this. Confusing, boring and incest. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kimberly | 12/1/2009

    " Pioneer tale, well-written emotionally involving, semi-historical fiction "

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About the Author

Karen Fisher has lived in the West as a teacher, wrangler, farmer, and carpenter. She now lives with her husband and their three children on an island in the Puget Sound.

About the Narrator

Cassandra Campbell, Audie Award–nominated narrator and winner of thirty-nine Earphones Awards, has performed in regional theaters across the country and in several off-Broadway shows at the Public Theater and the Mint Theater. In addition to narrating audiobooks, acting, and directing, she is a commercial and documentary voice-over artist.