Upright Women Wanted has a really interesting set-up: take your standard Western setting, and instead of cowboys, substitute a group of women called Librarians, whose supposed job is to delivery Approved Materials for reading and pick up the old or worn out materials for fixing up. Esther wants to join the Librarians to get away from her past and she stows away in a Librarian wagon. Obviously she gets caught and reaches a tentative agreement with the Head Librarian Bet about apprenticing.
The novella follows the two Librarians (Bet’s partner is Leda) and their trainee Cye on a mission, but one that Esther doesn’t at first understand since it involves transporting people, not books. It turns out the Librarians have a secret function that most of the rest of the world, especially the political powers that be (which might include Esther’s father) don’t seem to know about. One of the people being transported, a woman named Amity, especially seems interested in Esther and helping her learn what the world really is like, especially for certain kinds of people. There’s a betrayal and the obligatory Western shoot-out type of fight, and the right kind of open ending, as in where there’s a lot of possibility but the important things are answered.
The political/cultural outerworld is not very well described, and it mostly doesn’t matter since the type of person affected by those perspectives and ideas (which includes Esther and several other characters in various ways) is really the focus, not the rest of the world into which said people don’t quite fit. There’s also the mysterious figure of Galahd who might be the head of the Librarian organization but given who they also seem to be boss of, that might be unclear. Also not really explained but who cares is what really happens to Amity after the main shoot out. What matters, namely the Librarians, Cye, and Esther, is explained to some extent. The lack of world building is not entirely necessary since most people know what the expected standard setting for a Western is: dusty outdoors on horseback, etc. This actually fits pretty well with the division of the us-them kind of set up between Esther and the Librarians and those like them, and the rest of the world reflected in the cowboy-like existence of Librarians as opposed to the more town-based life for everyone else. I have to admit, even though there are quite a few cliches invoked, it really does work, since the novella is thought provoking but also still just a good story.