Winner of the 1990 Spur Award for Best Western Novel:
An unlikely hero arrives in a hard town—
Can the wandering preacher bring justice to Sanctuary?
A hungry Indian boy waits by the train tracks, hopping back and forth to keep warm, praying that someone passing through the forgotten town of Sanctuary will throw him a scrap of food. A preacher gets off the train, thin and tan, and tells the boy to follow him. The preacher gives the child money and a meal, then sends him on his way. This is the first life Mordecai will save in Sanctuary. It will not be the last.
A hardscrabble town far from civilization, Sanctuary is lorded over by a hypocritical reverend and a cruel rancher. They see no threat in the preacher, but they underestimate him. A religious man hardened by life on the frontier, Mordecai is not afraid to thrash a sinner with his belt. He will remake this town in God’s image, or leave Sanctuary to burn.
Mordecai is a preacher and when he arrives in the small Montana town of Sanctuary, people and lives will soon change. Strong and silent, Mordecai rights the wrongs he sees. First he helps by feeding a young boy and his grandmother, and then he sobers up and restores a hopeless drunk into a fine surgeon, and finally he helps an entire village of native peoples forced to live next to the town dump learn to feed themselves. Unafraid to stand up to town bullies, a corrupt preacher and cruel rancher, Mordecai, through philanthropy, gaining the support of others, and by issuing his own sense of justice, slowly begins to turn a town into something better.
Author Gary Svee uses a great deal of symbolism in the novel through titles and actions. For instance, Mordecai reminded me of many Biblical heros who went to great lengths to save their people. Even the name of the town gave me pause to reflect. The book was written with clear prose and a gentle pace. Although not overly suspenseful, the book left me with a feeling of respect and great reverence for those who are less fortunate and those who are generous of heart and charitable. A great story about faith, adversity, and love.