cover image Little Century

Little Century

Anna Keesey. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-0-374-19204-4

Keesey debuts with a confidently energetic tale of an 18-year-old orphan who leaves Chicago to eke out a new life for herself in Century, Ore., at the turn of the 20th century. Esther Chambers arrives knowing little about the West, but cousin Ferris “Pick” Pickett—a cattleman and embodiment of the independence and enterprise of the frontier—sets Esther up in a cabin on the shores of Lake Half-a-Mind with plans for her to homestead till the land becomes a part of Pick’s holdings. As Esther acclimates to a life of hard work—which Keesey evokes in economical and striking images—she comes to love the land and its inhabitants, learns to ride a horse, and falls for a sheepherder, the enemy of the cattleman. When factional conflicts erupt in violence, the harsh realities of cowboy justice and life in the West come to light, forcing Esther to choose her loyalties carefully. While Keesey offers a variety of characters with intriguing stories of their own, it is the richly depicted setting—from desert to dry goods store—that showcases her talent. Agent: Julie Barer, Barer Literary. (June)