cover image Easy Keeper

Easy Keeper

Mary Tannen / Author Farrar Straus Giroux $21 (198p) ISBN 978-

An old Colorado town about to succumb to the ersatz taste of Eastern developers is the setting for Tannen's gracefully written, sometimes beguiling but patently overstructured contemporary western romance. Recent widow Lily efficiently runs her sheep ranch, often with the unobtrusive help of her friend, town historian Dusty, who has loved her for years in silence. Impulsive, flaky Dixie comes to Priest Creek to find the modern version of the pulp westerns she compulsively reads; swaggering cowboy Shane doesn't know what has hit him when she moves into his trailer. Each of these nicely delineated characters is emotionally adrift, searching for the next chapter in his or her life story. Enter Foster, an effete outsider from New York, where he writes and sings commercial jingles and makes a lot of money. Though his charm is never apparent to the reader, Foster elicits passion in normally reticent, independent Lily--and a closemouthed despair in reliable Dusty. Foster thinks of Lily in terms of an easy keeper (an animal that needs less feed than the amount of food it produces), but Lily turns out to have instincts he cannot appreciate. Tannen's ( After Roy) prose is lean, ironic and often arresting. But she sets up the love triangle too broadly, making Foster so wimpy and clumsy that Lily's eventual decision is never in doubt. Even so, this is a satisfying story that will win an audience. (July)