Michel Tournier, Author, Jonathan F. Krell, Translator, Jonathan F. Krell, Introduction by , trans. from the French by Jonathan F. Krell. Univ. of Nebraska $45 (89p) ISBN 978-0-8032-4440-5 ISBN 978-0-8032-9445-5

As in his seven previous novels (Friday; The Ogre), prolific French author Tournier draws on biblical myths to construct an effective analogy between the trail blazed by Moses during the Exodus and the path taken by American pioneers to reach California. In the 1840s, Eleazar O'Braid, an Irish shepherd with a passion for scripture, meets his future wife, Esther, when he moves from Connemara to "aggressively Catholic" Galway to pursue his studies with an Anglican minister. Despite their religious differences, Esther and Eleazer's union is happy, and the couple has two children, Ben and Cora. The family is forced to flee to Cork during the potato famine, but Cora's innocent wisdom dictates yet another trip, this time across the Atlantic to Portsmouth, Va. From there O'Braid decides to migrate to St. Louis, but his ongoing preoccupation with Moses' journey lures him further west. The initial optimism that marks their pilgrimage turns bitter when a dispute between their fellow travelers leads to a miscarriage of justice, and Eleazar elects to strike out on his own despite the dangers posed by the Sierra Nevada trail. His fears prove valid when Ben is bitten by a rattlesnake, but an encounter with a mysterious Native American healer provides a miraculous cure, and the family finally reaches the promised land. The narrative reads like a parable, but Tournier's spare style conceals a thought-provoking series of twists and turns as he pulls off a risky concept with economy and depth, and a contemporary relevance. (May 4)

Reviewed on: 03/25/2002
Release date: 05/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 89 pages - 978-0-8032-9445-5
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