cover image American Copper

American Copper

Shann Ray. Unbridled, $16 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-60953-121-8

Ray’s elegiac debut novel, set in 1923, follows poet Evelynne Lowry as she tries to shrug off the influence of her brutal, possessive copper baron father, Josef Lowry, by accompanying her brother, Tomas, a veteran of World War I, to a job working on the railroad in northern Montana. But when an accident forces her to return to her father’s home in Butte, Evelynne’s solitary existence is challenged by two different men. William Black Kettle, whose great-great-grandfather was a Cheyenne peace chief killed at the Sand Creek Massacre, is a rodeo roper whose grace and long black hair attract Evelynne. Suitor number two, Zion, is a giant of a man hired to break in her new horse. Zion’s quiet strength is intoxicating to Evelynne, but he quits her, while William returns to the rodeo circuit and begins a correspondence with Evelynne, who risks her father’s wrath in order to be with him. Ray has written a novel about Montana in the first three decades of the 20th century, caught between old and new ways. The story is melodramatic, with Josef resembling a villain out of a silent movie, and the characters frustratingly drift in and out of the story, which ends on an anticlimactic note many readers may find unsatisfying. Agent: Emily Forland, Brandt & Hochman Literary. (Nov.)