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Extended Audio Sample Little Century, by Anna Keesey Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (458 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Anna Keesey Narrator: Tavia Gilbert Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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A charged and eloquent novel about a young woman caught in the midst of the range wars in the American West at the turn of the century

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 a sunburnt, laconic cattle wrangler: her distant cousin, Ferris Pickett. Within days, Esther is perjuring herself at the county clerk’s office, swearing that she is twenty-one and ready for the rigors of homesteading. Pick leads her to a tiny cabin that shows daylight at the chinks, and Esther begins her new life on the small lake called Half-a-Mind. If she can hold out for five years, the land will join Pick’s already impressive spread.

Land—there’s a lot of it wide-open in Century but, somehow, not enough. Esther has arrived in the middle of a range war; it’s cattle against sheep, and water’s at a premium. Small incidents of violence swiftly escalate; before long, blood spills on the dry ground, and the railroad starts to think twice about laying tracks through Century. No railroad means no town, something Pick and his men will go to any lengths to prevent. Meanwhile, Esther finds her sympathies divided between her cousin and a sheepherder named Ben Cruff, a sworn enemy of the cattle ranchers. As her passion for Ben and her land grows, she begins to see how at odds these things are with her cousin’s own interests. She can’t be loyal to both; at some point she’ll have to make a terrible choice.

Little Century maps our country’s cutthroat legacy of dispossession and greed; it also celebrates the ecstatic visions of what America could become. Through Esther’s story, which veers between triumph and heartbreak, we see the American West as it was being forged. In the tradition of classics like My Ántonia and There Will Be Blood, Little Century is a resonant and moving debut novel by a gifted writer.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “In this novel of stunning beauty, Anna Keesey gives us the American West at the turn of the century and a cast of unforgettable characters who will risk anything to tame it. Oregon’s hardscrabble frontier comes utterly alive for us, and in prose so lovely, spot-on, and accomplished, I found myself dog-earing nearly every page. An incredible debut—and a writer to watch.”

    Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife

  • “‘One place understood helps us understand all other places better,’ Eudora Welty once said, and such is the case in this outstanding debut. Anna Keesey renders Little Century’s time and place marvelously, but the novel’s concerns are timeless and universal. With its beautiful language, memorable characters, and compelling story, Little Century is sure to gain a wide and appreciative audience.”

    Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena

  • “Dwindling resources, bribery, and corruption—issues as current as this morning’s newspaper—mix with optimism in Little Century, Anna Keesey’s 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.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • Little Century is rich and true and achingly beautiful. Its heroine, Esther Chambers, is the kind found in the best of classic literature: an innocent caught against the backdrop of escalating violence, whose essential goodness and loyalty shines through the savagery around her.”

    Kathleen Kent, bestselling author of The Heretic’s Daughter

  • “Keesey debuts with a confidently energetic tale…While Keesey offers a variety of characters with intriguing stories of their own, it is the richly depicted setting—from desert to dry good store—that showcases her talent.”  

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Highly entertaining reading. First novelist Keesey has produced a top-notch novel of Western Americana.”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “Keesey writes lyrically and examines the ferocity of frontier life with an unromantic and penetrating gaze.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Here is a fine novel, written with grace, about the settling of Oregon and the evening redness in the West. In the desert town of Century, haunted by Indian blood and barren to the core, the cattlemen hate the shepherds and the shepherds hate the cattlemen. But as the community is about to consume itself with greed and vengeance, a young orphan from Chicago shows up with a moral clarity that outstrips her age, to remind us that character matters and that justice is pursuant to conscience. Little Century is a frontier saga, a love story, and an epic of many small pleasures.”

    Joshua Ferris, author of Then We Came to the End

  • “Anna Keesey conjures her Western landscape of ranches and homesteads with painterly richness, but it’s her uncanny historical imagination that really takes the breath away. Her characters pulse with life; their times feel as immediate, as urgent and vital, as our own.”

    Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl

  • “This is a beautiful and completely absorbing book. In spare, luminous prose, Keesey perfectly conjures the textures, characters, and urgency of life in Century. I read it at a gallop and didn’t want it to end.”

    Madeline Miller, author of The Song of Achilles

  • “Anna Keesey’s debut novel is historical fiction at its finest—precise and particular in detail, character, and setting, yet vast and epic in scope and theme. Little Century is a remarkable achievement.”

    Larry Watson, author of Montana 1948

  • Barnes & Noble Discover Award
  • A Kirkus Reviews “New and Notable Title”

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Pat St. | 1/11/2014

    " It took me some time to adjust to the slower pace of this novel, but I wound up enjoying this story immensely! Set at the turn of the century in barren Eastern Oregon, the novel features a young woman -- orphaned after the death of her mother -- setting out from Chicago to find her last living relative, a cattle rancher named Pick embroiled in a range war with sheep herders. Keesey's language is beautiful, evocative, and downright addictive. Highly recommended for anyone who likes to read about the West. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Judy | 1/9/2014

    " This novel was hard to put down. Keesey invents a turn-of-the century town in Eastern Oregon, and develops some unforgettable characters. I loved her attention to detail and her excellent portrayal of the young girl, Esther, who works, loves and learns to make her own decisions. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Allie | 1/4/2014

    " I loved this book so much. I finished it several days ago and cannot get it out of my mind, especially the text of the last page. The writing is beautiful but not self-consciously so. It seems effortless. Esther is such a sympathetic heroine and all of the characters felt so real to me. This is one of the best books I have read this year. I recommend it highly. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Paul | 12/31/2013

    " Keesey is an expert linguist. Smart, witty, engrossing. An extremely well written turn-of-the-20th-century story. Sometimes a bit confusing about who is who and what they do and do not do. But a great ride. Well worth the 320pp investment. "

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