Anna Keesey’s debut novel, “Little Century,” has achieved a goal that any author in the 21st century strives for: to be recognized by Oprah.
The assistant professor of English was recognized in the May 2012 edition of “O: The Oprah Magazine,” about a month before the official release, in “The 16 Best Books Coming Out This June.” The review, by O’s Liza Nelson, stated: “Dwindling resources, bribery, and corruption-issues as current as this morning’s newspaper-mix with optimism in “Little Century,” Keesey’s briskly romantic, nontraditional Western set in Oregon circa 1900.”
In addition, “The Christian Science Monitor” and “Vogue Magazine” added “Little Century” to their recommended summer reading.
“It was just nice to have ‘Oprah Magazine’ like it,” Keesey said about her reaction to the article. “They don’t tend to praise books that are just kind-of okay… It was a good vote of confidence.”
“Little Century” focuses around Esther Chambers, an 18-year-old girl on the brink of womanhood in this coming of age story.
“The coming of age story of young people is in front of me all the time,” Keesey said. “I have a strong memory also myself of being that age and that sense of feeling like an imposter in the adult world and feeling like, ‘well, am I going to be the only person who is not going to make it?’”
Esther, a native of Chicago, travels to Oregon after her mother’s death. When she arrives, she finds herself, not in an up-and-coming city that she had imagined Oregon to be, but in the high desert in the dead of winter.
“I had spent some time in the high desert across the mountains when I was a kid. And I just really liked it,” Keesey said. “It was just one of those places that, for me, was really beautiful and strange and kind of got my imagination going.”
Esther is persuaded by the charming Pick to claim land and, to her chagrin, cause trouble. She is witness to a feud between Pick, a cattle rancher with a mysterious agenda, and Ben, a young sheepherder with a target on his back.
“There were a number of crimes where people, often people that were sympathetic with cattle ranchers, would attack and kill a whole bunch of sheep belonging to some inherit sheepherder because they thought that sheep destroyed the range land for the cows,” Keesey said.
Esther’s life in Oregon is a constant battle between love and sorrow, but the question that will keep you reading is which one will win?