Fred T. Marsh (review date 16 February 1936)
SOURCE: "A Novel of Old and New Americans," in The New York Times Book Review, February 16, 1936, p. 7.
[In the following review, Marsh praises The Surrounded as a moving and dramatic first novel.]
Up in the mountain country of Northwestern Montana is the valley of Sniél-emen—Mountains of the Surrounded. It lies within the original Jocko Indian Reservation, home of the last of the Salish (or Flathead) people. It is the seat of the once famous mission of St. Mary, founded nearly a hundred years ago by Jesuits under the leadership of Pierre J. De Smet. They were a fine people, esteemed as honorable and friendly by the whites, brave in defense of their homeland against their hereditary enemies, the war-like and predatory Blackfeet (who have a great history, too). But first the church, then the traders, finally white settlers upset the ancient order.
D'Arcy McNickle, himself part Indian, was born on the reservation thirty-two years ago and went to a government Indian school there for a time. In this unusual and finished first novel [The Surrounded] he has written a modern story of the Salish people in their modern desultory and formless way of life, a dramatic and thoughtful tale, written from the inside but without autobiographical point, and deeply imbedded in the historic past.
When Max Leon, the Spaniard, came to the valley many years ago he decided he had found his new home. He was tired of roving and he saw there the ranch he wanted. So he settled down, married an Indian girl, daughter of the old chief Running Wolf and called "Faithful Catharine" by the Jesuit Fathers for her piety. They had eleven children. Max prospered materially, but otherwise things did not go well with him. His boys turned out bad, one after another. His favorite daughter married a full-blooded Indian. He was defiantly self-conscious about his Indian family in his dealings with other whites. And Catharine, his wife, sinks further and further back in her stoic dignity and old Indian ways until in a rage Max builds a new house and decrees that no...
(The entire section is 871 words.)