|Pilgrimage the First Book of the People|
Date: June, 1963 — Book
Fiction, Science Fiction
This book, and its sequels, are no longer in print. Nor are they likely to be in print any time soon, as they are centered around a people who, though they are from space, are deeply faithful in a very Christian manner. They came from a planet that was destroyed because the Presence— a God whom the People can actually sense— decided they had grown complacent, and that to grow spiritually, they would have to go through hardship.
And hardship they find, as they land in turn-of-the-century America, on the frontiers where different is sometimes dead. And the People are different, not to look at (they are, basically, human), but in abilities— abilities such as levitation which get them killed as witches.
This book is a series of stories set in a loose framework of the saving of a person who has lost herself, a potential human suicide brought in and sheltered by the People. She listens as they tell their tales of hiding, and of fear, of being different and shunned, and, ultimately, of faith, and hope. The stories are well done, and show the problems of being superior (especially with that oh-so-crucial matter of humility.)
Ultimately, though, it is the stories themselves that are alien, because most of us have grown up in an age where faith is not taken for granted, where witch huntings seem silly not because the purported witches* may be innocent but because there is no faith to call them guilty. Henderson writes from a strong and self-evident faith, and her People, though technically not Christian, are what Christians should strive to be. Most of the time. Which they admit.
*Mandatory PC disclaimer: I am speaking of witches in the evil devil-worshipping sense, not the Wicca or harmless herbalist sense.