First-novelist Pritchett explores definitions of love and goodness in the same eastern Colorado hardscrabble landscape of her award-winning story collection (Hell’s Bottom, Colorado, 2001).
When Libby’s younger sister, Tess, discovers she’s pregnant, Libby offers to raise the baby if Tess agrees not to abort. Twenty-two-year-old Libby secretly hopes Tess will decide she loves the baby once it’s born and abandon her plans to leave their isolated ranching community, but as soon as she graduates from high school, Tess heads off to Durango, and Libby starts raising baby Amber, helped grudgingly by her beautiful but embittered mother, Kay, a ranch-hand who left most of Tess’s rearing to Libby. Libby, a supermarket clerk, goes through her days learning how to be Amber’s mother, supported by a circle of imperfect but goodhearted friends who admire her courage. Her boyfriend, Derek, is gentle and kind but unwilling to commit to the baby, partly because he senses Libby doesn’t love him fully enough. Meanwhile, Libby’s nearest neighbor, Miguel, is raising his small son alone since his wife, Libby’s best friend, committed suicide. Miguel feels responsible for that suicide and has agreed to marry a pregnant stranger crossing the border illegally from Mexico so she can get papers. From Ed, an eccentric who’s moved to town to raise bees, Libby learns that Tess has gotten involved with the coyotes bringing in the illegals. On it goes: Libby’s boss catches her stealing beer but says everyone deserves a second chance; Kay and her rancher boss fall in love; Derek and Libby break up. Simon, Amber’s father and an active member of the Cowboy Christian Fellowship, at first wants nothing to do with his daughter. Then, spurred by his genuinely concerned parents, he briefly pursues custody until Ed, a kind of hippie fairy godfather, brings Tess and Libby together to fight for Libby’s right to keep Amber.
A spare, almost-too-sweet story that displays Pritchett’s gift for dialogue and compelling characters.