The Homesman is a devastating, humane story of early pioneers to America's West in the 1850's. It celebrates the ones we hear nothing of the brave women whose hearts and minds were broken by that life of bitter hardship. When a nineteen-year-old mother loses her three children to diphtheria in three days, or a woman left alone for two nights has to shoot wolves as they crash through the window, it is no wonder they should lose their minds. After a dreadful winter, the Rev. Dowd finds there are four such cases in his parish and, as yet, no asylum in this frontier town. A "homesman" must be found to escort the women East to civilization. Not a job anyone would volunteer for, it falls to Mary Bee Cuddy, ex-teacher, spinster indomitable, resourceful, "plain as an old tin pail." Brave as she is, Mary Bee knows she cannot succeed alone, and the only companion available is the low-life and untrustworthy "George Briggs," a claim-jumper. Thus begins a trek East, against the tide of colonization, against hardship, Indian attacks, ice storms, loneliness, and the unceasing aggravation of a disparate group of mad women, which provides a series of tough, fast-paced adventures and introduces two wonderful, idiosyncratic characters. This is the tale of their journey, and a tribute to the valor of the men and women who homesteaded the frontier, whether they survived or not. The Homesman is narrative fiction of the first rank. And in Mary Bee Cuddy, Glendon Swarthout has created a portrait of a frontier woman who is as moving and believable as it is unforgettable.