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When Maria was a teenager she moved away from her family to live with some other relatives in town. Then later her father Samuel met Maria in the settlement closest by called Peribonka. They spent the night in the village and the next morning attended church right before heading back home. The morning at church Maria runs into Francois Paradis. He is a handsome man who also lived in the Chapdelaines before. Francois did see Maria, but that was a long time ago when she was still a child. Francois found Maria very attractive and told her he would come back to the Chapdelaines to see her soon.
A couple days past and the man did end up visiting her. This is when Maria learned that farmers and pioneers are extremely different. Farmers enjoy life for what it has to offer them and just grow up loving the land. On the other hand pioneers like a life full of excitement and are always looking for the next best thing. The father of Maria had raised her to enjoy the simple virtues of life and to take part in the happiness that you can get from the land. Maria does enjoy the farm life, but she begins to find Francois more attractive and begins to question her values. Francois used to work for her father, but left the farm life to eventually work as a lumberjack. By the end of his visit he fell in love with Maria and promised to come visit once again.
When the summer came along Maria and her family had plenty of work to do. All the women had to prepare for the winter, which meant storing food. They also had to take care of their men desires, because the men had to work hard cutting trees in the forest during that time. They manage to catch a break when the blueberries ripened. It was the end of July and everyone took a break to go on a berry picking journey. Francois arrived the night before the picking expedition. When the berry picking trip began, Maria and Francois drifted away from everyone else. They filled up their baskets with berries and then sat down to chat. Francois took the courage and asked Maria to marry him in the upcoming year. She did accept the proposal and was secretly planning to marry him. He had to leave again for work, but he told Maria he will be back.
Soon after summer the winter winds started and snow came shortly after. It was a snowy season. With all the snow many men including Francois and Maria's brothers went to the logging camps. While Francois was gone for winter, two other men pop up in Maria's life. The first was Eutrope Gagnon, who was just like Maria's father, and enjoyed working the wilderness. The second man was French-Canadian named Lorenzo Surprenant. He is originally from Canada, but moved to the United States for a job in a factory. Francois was still superior to both these men. Eutrope already knew that he did not have much of a chance against Francois. Lorenzo did mention how he had an easier life living in the city and working a factory job, but Maria did not care much about it. Maria loved Francois, but the worst happens when tragedy occurs with Francois meeting his death in a railroad accident. It occurred when he left the camp and was attempting to board a train to visit Maria. He later learned he had to change his plans and go on foot to the Chapdelaine's farm because the trains were not working. This was dangerous as Francois ended up getting lost and died from the elements. Maria was devastated to learn about her loves death. Francois was her fiancé and now with his death the wedding would never happen. Chapdelaine's family was also shocked from his death and the father took Maria to see the priest in the village. The priest managed to calm Maria's emotions down.
The next summer that arrived turned out to be awful for everyone living in Northern Quebec. Maria's family suffered tremendously during this time period. First, the spring arrived late, after that a huge drought hit during summer, and thirdly, winter arrived much earlier than usual. This really triggered many people including Maria, to begin to doubt life with these terrible kinds of seasons in Quebec.
As the winter began this gave the other two men, Eutrope and Lorenzo a chance to talk to Maria about marriage again. Maria would listen to them about it, but she was not very enthusiastic. Eutrope did not really have much different to offer Maria except for a similar life that she is already living on his farm. It would be the same style of life that she is getting from her father's farm. Lorenzo on the other hand, had a much different life to offer her. Lorenzo had the exciting city life to offer her, since he worked in Massachusetts. Maria would hear how urban life and the climate are so much better than in the north. When Lorenzo would speak to her about these things it did catch Maria's interest. Maria's original love Francois met his demise in the wilderness and she did not see the point in that kind of life anymore.
By the time Christmas came along Lorenzo came to visit Maria. He spoke to her once again about the wonders of living in the city. Maria found the decision difficult to make, but she finally accepted Lorenzo's offer of marriage to move away from the farm and start a new life in the city. She was tired of the wilderness. Poor Eutrope, did not have anything to offer and Maria rejected his offer.
During the winter, the Chapdelaine family is hit with yet another misfortune. Maria's mom gets terribly sick. There was not much the family would be able to do in the help of her sickness. Maria's father did go out during the cold winter to find a doctor, but when a doctor was found they learned more bad news. The doctor examined the mother and was unsuccessful in finding any sort of treatment. His only recommendation was to find a priest to pray for her. Samuel Chapdelaine took his advice and went looking for a priest, meanwhile the family put their high hopes in a bonesetter who they trusted will cure her. The bonesetter also regretted to inform them that Mrs. Chapdelaine problem would not be fixed. The family was overwhelmed with distress. The priest did show up to pray for Mrs. Chapdelaine, and soon after that she passed away.
Maria would stay up with the corpse of her mother keeping her dad company during this hard time. Her father would share stories about his wife and how well she had supported him all this time. She helped him build the farms they lived on. The book comes to an end with Maria realizing that she is just like her mother and could endure everything the wilderness can through at her. She could enjoy the pleasures and withstand the hardships the wilderness life has to offer. Eutrope tries again and speaks to Maria about a chance at marriage. This time he has something to offer her which is saving up enough money to set up housekeeping. Maria came to the final decision that she would marry him once he returned from the lumber camps.