Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Little Century by Anna Keesey

Little Century is the story of a town and two ways of life.  Set in the early days of the twentieth century in the western town of Century, Oregon, this debut novel by Anna Keesey follows young
Chicago city-raised Esther Chambers as she travels by railroad to a new life in the west where she has sought shelter with her distant cousin and cattle rancher Ferris Pickett.  Within hours of meeting, Ferris requests that Anna fib about her young age and apply for a homestead near Ferris's ranch.
Little does Anna realize that she will have to stay on the homestead by herself, at least at night, and that her presence on the recently abandoned land guarantees that Ferris will be able to continue watering his cattle there. Day by day the realities of life here become more apparent as Anna finds herself in the midst of an escalading war between the cattle ranchers and the newly arrived sheepherders.

Fans of old westerns will recognize that classic conflict between the open range cattle ranchers and the later arriving sheepherders.  Even though Anna Keesey's underlying plot may not be new, her treatment is informative and authentic.  The variety of people who make up the town add to the story,
especially the shopkeeper and the school teacher. I liked that readers were really kept in the dark about Ferris' true character.  You will suspect him because he is a rancher and appears not to be truthful with Esther, but you will see good in him, as does Esther.  At the same time, you will likely be cheering for Esther's new friend, Ben, who grazes his sheep near Esther's place.  When violence gets someone dear to Esther, it is clear that her loyalities cannot remain divided.  The ending to this story defies any movie formula ending, and the little epilogue at the very end was superb!

I listened to this title and the narration took me to a different place and time as I comfortably quilted in my sewing room.  The story was so much richer than anything I could find on television.  Railroad tycoons, hardscrap farmers, cattle barons, and buckaroos (cowboys), and a couple very courageous women.  Great entertainment and another historical fiction that added another realistic glimpse into our complicated past.  I recommend this tale and hope that Anna Keesey takes her pen to another time and place soon.

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