With a few gracious nods to Shakespeare, the sophomore novel by Carrie La Seur explores the tricky realms of loss, fealty and family expectation – all amid the stark grandeur of eastern Montana, “under an infinite sky that gave no quarter.”
Anthony Fry reluctantly returns to Billings, after a failed stab at acting in New York City, to direct a summer theatre camp. His father, an indomitable cattle rancher, died recently, mysteriously thrown from a horse that only he could ride, and with only his estranged brother, Neal, witness to the accident.
Like Hamlet, Anthony is haunted by his father’s ghost, and like the Danish prince, he finds his position in the family lineage usurped by his uncle, who has the audacity to marry Anthony’s mother, Sarah.
The family drama is compounded by a giant international coal company that’s buying up mineral rights across the close-knit ranching community, pitting neighbor against neighbor with its unscrupulous tactics. Anthony, confused and often inebriated, tries to reconcile his loyalty to the people and place that raised him with his own “powerful creative imperative.”
La Seur deftly paints both landscape and people, “these crusty grandpas with hair growing out of their ears … This was the crowd to stick with for the zombie apocalypse.” Her themes are contemporary and timeless, as Anthony begins to understand the Bard’s imperative: “This above all: to thine own self be true.”
The New York Daily News calls it “a leisurely Western, full of nuanced characters.”
The author is a seventh generation Montanan, who practices energy and environmental law in Billings. Her debut novel, The Home Place, was published to acclaim in 2014 and received the High Plains Book Award.
– Kristi Niemeyer