Through the lens of a fictional town in what is now Colorado, Centennial tells America’s history from the age of the dinosaurs up until the early 1970s, warts and all.
The first people who appear in Michener’s narrative are Native Americans whose nomadic lives bring them through the area along the South Platte River hunting buffalo.
An Arapaho named Lame Beaver and his family become the thread holding Michener’s tale together for generations.
Beaver trappers come to land, followed by farmers.
The vast prairie next tempts cattlemen whose livelihoods are soon threatened by sheep farmers.
Sugar beets mark the next phase of settlement.
No matter their occupations, the people of the plains are at the mercy of the weather. They and their animals require water, which by 1970 is already a rapidly disappearing resource.
Centennial is vintage Michener: Passionate, precise, picturesque, never glossing over the despicable, never wallowing in the salacious.
And as always Michener brings into his story historical facts that are more bizarre than any fiction readers could imagine.
Centennial by James A. Michener
Random House  p. 909
1974 bestseller #1. My grade: A-
© 2018 Linda Gorton Aragoni