Official plot: For more than a half century, Father Damien Modeste has served his beloved people, the Ojibwe, on the remote reservation of Little No Horse. To complicate his fears, his quiet life changes when a troubled colleague comes to the reservation to investigate the life of the perplexing, difficult, possibly false saint Sister Leopolda. Father Damien alone knows the strange truth of Sister Leopolda’s piety and is faced with the most difficult decision of his life: Should he reveal all he knows and risk everything? Or should he manufacture a protective history though he believes Leopolda’s wonder-working is motivated by evil?
Let me give you a little background. It is set in North Dakota, beginning at the start of the 20th century. We meet Sister Cecilia, a nun with a gift for music. She is so carried away at the convent playing the piano so passionately that it affects the sister nuns, and the Mother Superior forbids her to play anymore, so she leaves the convent and shows up at the farm of a bachelor. She improbably ends up married to the besotted man, back to her original name of Agnes, and in a surreal episode, gets caught up in a bank robbery, snatched by the robbers, and as her husband chases the car on his horse, when the car bogs down in the mud, he fights the robber, while Agnes steals the stolen money and hides it in the lining of her coat. She eventually buys a piano for the farm with the money. She is widowed, and bereft, and at one point is visited by a young priest, Father Damien, who is on his way to a remote Ojibwe tribe to be their priest.
He goes on his way, a terrible storm arises, and a flood sweeps away the farm and its piano. Agnes is caught in the flood, and when she finally gets herself back to land, she sees the body of poor Father Damien, caught in a tree. She decides to take on his identity, and using his clothes, journeys herself to that far tribe, where she is known only as a man, Father Damien.
The story then becomes about her life as the priest and the friendships she makes there, and the various characters living in the area.
It is a complex tale, all woven together like a beautiful Indian blanket, and almost impossible to summarize the plot in anything like a concise manner. Because when I try to do that, the map actually does become the territory and the summary becomes as long as the book. So, here is what you do: read it. You will absolutely love it.