In the tradition of such classics as My Ántonia and There Will Be Blood, Anna Keesey’s Little Century is a resonant and moving debut novel by a writer of confident gifts.
Orphaned after the death of her mother, eighteen-year-old Esther Chambers heads west in search of her only living relative. In the lawless frontier town of Century, Oregon, she’s met by her distant cousin, a laconic cattle rancher named Ferris Pickett. Pick leads her to a tiny cabin by a small lake called Half-a-Mind, and there she begins her new life as a homesteader. If she can hold out for five years, the land will join Pick’s already impressive spread.
But Esther discovers that this town on the edge of civilization is in the midst of a range war. There’s plenty of land, but somehow it is not enough for the ranchers—it’s cattle against sheep, with water at a premium. In this charged climate, small incidents of violence swiftly escalate, and Esther finds her sympathies divided between her cousin and a sheepherder named Ben Cruff, a sworn enemy of the cattle ranchers. As her feelings for Ben and for her land grow, she begins to see she can’t be loyal to both.
Little Century maps our country’s cutthroat legacy of dispossession and greed, even as it celebrates the ecstatic visions of what America could become.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Orphans -- Fiction; Rangelands -- Oregon -- Fiction
“[A] briskly romantic, nontraditional Western . . . It’s Willa Cather with a sense of humor . . . Keesey portrays her men and women as deeply flawed but so achingly vulnerable that it is impossible not to identify with them.” — Liza Nelson, O: The Oprah Magazine
"Keesey writes lyrically and examines the ferocity of frontier life with an unromantic and penetrating voice.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Highly entertaining reading. First novelist Keesey has produced a top-notch novel of Western Americana.” — Keddy Ann Outlaw, Library Journal (starred review)
Keesey, Anna, "Little Century" (2012). Linfield Authors Book Gallery. 37.