Title: Little Century
Author: Anna Keesey
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
Plot synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
I loved Little Century so much. I finished it months ago and cannot get it out of my mind, especially the text of the last page. In fact, this, along with Code Name Verity and Fever were my three favorite reads during 2012. The writing is beautiful but not self-consciously so. It seems effortless, and it’s hard to believe Little Century is a debut novel. Esther is a sympathetic heroine and all of the characters felt so real to me, from Pick to Ben to the storekeeper she befriends and the school teacher who takes Esther under her wing. This is one of the best books I have read in years. I recommend Little Century highly to fans of westerns, pioneer stories, historical fiction, and beautiful writing in general.This is a book targeted to adults that will appeal to teens as well.