Imagine if « The Son » were written by Joan Didion and set in California, and you will begin to approximate the profound accomplishment that Kate Milliken has achieved with her debut novel
by Kate Milliken
Agent: DeFiore and Co.
Partially inspired by a series of real-life wildfires which besieged Southern California in the fall of 1993, Milliken’s novel follows the lives of four characters whose fates are inextricably linked by a car accident that kills a two-year-old boy one summer night in Topanga Canyon. The narrator– a woman connected to these fates and living in Wyoming one generation later.
Rory Ramos is a dutiful teenager with a penchant for photography who serves as stable hand at Rock Creek Ranch, where her underachieving stepfather Gus is ranch manager, overseeing daily tasks and catering to the ranch’s rich clientele (including teenage twins June and Wade Fisk, one a lesbian and the other an asshole). Rory and Gus, together with her bartender mother, live in a dilapidated A-frame teetering high in the Canyon’s hills, overlooking a vast white mansion. In this mansion live the Prices: famous movie star Everett, faltering wife Sarah, toddler son Charlie, and gorgeous teenage Vivian–whose lissome body Rory watches swim more nights than not. Rory’s life has always remained naturally separate, though, from the likes of the Fisks and Prices, thanks both to the brown color of her skin and her blue collar upbringing–until Gus’s involvement in the car accident that kills Vivian’s younger brother. From that moment on, Rory is pulled deeper into dramas that outclass her, caught between the Fisk and Price families, specifically between June and Vivian, and helping, through her own increasingly rebellious and the other teenagers’ combined actions, to bring about the November fires which wipe out the Canyon, on a night that will change Rory’s life forever.
KEPT ANIMALS is narrated retrospectively by a young woman in Little Snake, Wyoming who, some twenty years after the fact, suddenly has reason to piece together the events of 1993 in the Canyon. The reason — her mother, a war stringer photojournalist, has gone missing. This narrator is named Charlie, after young Charlie Price. Her mother? Rory Ramos. In KEPT ANIMALS, Kate Milliken has given us a new American Western classic.
Kate Milliken’s stories have appeared in Zyzzyva, Fiction, New Orleans Review, and Santa Monica Review, among others. A graduate of the Bennington College Writing Seminars, the recipient of fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, Yaddo, the Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop, and several Pushcart Prize nominations, Kate has also written for television and commercial advertising. Her debut collection of stories, « If I’d Known You Were Coming », was chosen for the 2013 John Simmons/Iowa Short Fiction Award by author Julie Orringer.