How Much of These Hills Is Gold
An electric debut novel set against the twilight of the American gold rush, two siblings are on the run in an unforgiving landscape--trying not just to survive but to find a home.Ba dies in the night; Ma is already gone. Newly orphaned children of immigrants, Lucy and Sam are suddenly alone in a land that refutes their existence. Fleeing the threats of their western mining town, they set off to bury their father in the only way that will set them free from their past. Along the way, they encounter giant buffalo bones, tiger paw prints, and the specters of a ravaged landscape as well as family secrets, sibling rivalry, and glimpses of a different kind of future.Both epic and intimate, blending Chinese symbolism and re-imagined history with fiercely original language and storytelling, How Much of These Hills Is Gold is a haunting adventure story, an unforgettable sibling story, and the announcement of a stunning new voice in literature. On a broad level, it explores race in an expanding country and the question of where immigrants are allowed to belong. But page by page, it's about the memories that bind and divide families, and the yearning for home.

How Much of These Hills Is Gold Details

TitleHow Much of These Hills Is Gold
Author
ReleaseApr 7th, 2020
PublisherRiverhead Books
ISBN-139780525537205
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Westerns, Literary Fiction, Adult, Novels, Adult Fiction, Cultural, China, LGBT

How Much of These Hills Is Gold Review

  • Paromjit
    January 1, 1970
    This is an astonishingly stunning, timeless and original piece of epic historical adventure fiction from the truly talented C. Pam Zhang that heartbreakingly resonates in our contemporary world today. She fuses myths and fiction that comprise history and those that write it with the cultural folklore and myths that immigrants and their families bring with them in their conflicts, struggle and search for identity, a sense of belonging and home, amidst their efforts to survive in the face of This is an astonishingly stunning, timeless and original piece of epic historical adventure fiction from the truly talented C. Pam Zhang that heartbreakingly resonates in our contemporary world today. She fuses myths and fiction that comprise history and those that write it with the cultural folklore and myths that immigrants and their families bring with them in their conflicts, struggle and search for identity, a sense of belonging and home, amidst their efforts to survive in the face of abuse, exploitation and relentless hostility to their presence. Set in the dying days of the Californian gold rush, the non-linear narrative is structured into four parts, stitching together the past, present and future of the Chinese-American siblings, 12 year old Lucy and 11 year old Sam. Having already suffered the loss of their mother, Lucy and Sam lose their father, Ba, a coal miner turned gold prospector, becoming orphans in a threatening environment. They leave with the body of their father, seeking the right place to bury him. The siblings are very different, Lucy seeks stability, security, a home, community, anonymity, wanting to learn, to be more than she is. These are never going to options that are open to her, it is constantly made clear her that they will never belong. Strange hypocrisy and ironic that these judgements and thinking comes from those who are themselves recent immigrants with a history of having stolen from and murdered indigenous communities. Lucy becomes aware of the power of writing, of documents and deeds, enabling the practice of legally stealing with impunity, of the legitimacy conferred by writing history, even if so much of it is untrue. Sam may well be a girl in terms of gender, but as far as she is concerned, she identifies as a boy, and she wants a different future than the one Lucy desires. In a story of family, the history of the ravaged American West, adventure, where family history is posthumously written, fantastical symbolic tigers and buffalo roam free, Lucy and Sam begin together, only to separate, but are destined to come together again. Zhang writes the most exquisite of prose, in this unforgettable, beautifully imagined storytelling, with its magical realism elements, of the complexities of family, of the commonality of the immigrant experience, the conflicts, the place of the culture and traditions of the home they have left, the battle to survive, the need to weave a new sense of identity, issues surrounding gender, race, and the wall of hostility endured in the place that has now become home. This may well be historical fiction but Zhang's novel speaks to us of our world as it is now, of how little has changed, of people driven by their fears and insecurities to blame immigrants for all their woes, ruthlessly exploited by populist politicians, ensuring that the immigrant experience remains a emotionally heartbreaking nightmare. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Little, Brown for an ARC.
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  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    Chasing the dream of gold, hoping it will bring a comfortable life, Chinese immigrants take their two American born children from place to place out west. As the dream fades with no gold to prospect, the father resorts to working in a coal mine where the pay is low and the temptations run high. This is such an impressive debut, with writing that takes the reader to this desolate, dry, dreary west. Its dark and a little gruesome in places and I wasnt quite expecting this to be as sad as it was. I Chasing the dream of gold, hoping it will bring a comfortable life, Chinese immigrants take their two American born children from place to place out west. As the dream fades with no gold to prospect, the father resorts to working in a coal mine where the pay is low and the temptations run high. This is such an impressive debut, with writing that takes the reader to this desolate, dry, dreary west. It’s dark and a little gruesome in places and I wasn’t quite expecting this to be as sad as it was. I do, however, enjoy reading from the perspective of a young child and I connected with Lucy and Sam, these two young siblings, felt for them as they endure hardships, hunger, family dysfunction, racism. It’s beautifully written, and it provides an such an eye opening view of the Chinese immigrant experience in the West and in that time, that I felt immersed in, but knew very little about. The story moves from their present day, perhaps around the 1860’s, to the past where the back story of their parents is depicted, then to a future time 5 years after the beginning. Lucy’s and Sam’s journeys, together and apart reflect on identity, family, “what makes a home a home”, memories. I finished the book feeling that there was so much left unsaid, feeling that the ending was somewhat open ended. Who knows - maybe a sequel, which I’d love because I’d like to find out where Lucy and Sam’s futures take them.I read this with Diane and Esil and truly appreciated connecting with them. It helped me focus a little more on reading than I have been able to . Thanks, book buddies and friends. I received an advanced copy of this book from Penguin/Riverhead through Edelweiss.
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  • karen
    January 1, 1970
    NOW AVAILABLE!!!!fulfilling book riot's 2020 read harder challenge task #7: Read a historical fiction novel not set in WWIIhere is the blurb i wrote about this book for indie next, for those of you who like succinct praise and/or capital letters:A powerful historical debut about two orphaned siblings coming of age during America's Gold Rush. Born to parents who left China for better prospects (heh), the pair forge their individual identitiesone craving adventure, the other stability, as they NOW AVAILABLE!!!!fulfilling book riot's 2020 read harder challenge task #7: Read a historical fiction novel not set in WWIIhere is the blurb i wrote about this book for indie next, for those of you who like succinct praise and/or capital letters:A powerful historical debut about two orphaned siblings coming of age during America's Gold Rush. Born to parents who left China for better prospects (heh), the pair forge their individual identities—one craving adventure, the other stability, as they navigate a land hostile to otherness on their search for a place to call home.now that that’s out of the way, lemme loosen my belt a little bit. this book is excellent. for me, it’s all about the characters; not only siblings sam and lucy, but also their parents, whose own stories emerge as the novel wends sinuously through the past and present, through lucy and sam’s experiences together and apart, through the mythic and the actual versions of the american dream. a lot of it reads like a cormac mccarthy-style western, with morally conflicted characters and that perfect blend of incongruously lyrical prose and gritty coarseness. there’s plenty of prettily-described ick in this book, much of it centered around the siblings transporting their father’s deliquescing corpse through the desert to give him a proper burial, what’s left of his body shaped by the trunk as a stew is shaped by its pot. however, there’s a deep emotional undercurrent here; a coming-of-age identity narrative wrapped around a family saga about ambition and the immigrant experience, where adolescent characters struggle to carve their unique adult selves out from under the weight of the past with its layers of secrets and lies and memories, its burdens of sacrifice and love and duty.sam and lucy are eleven and twelve years old when they become orphans. having already suffered the loss of their mother, the hardships of poverty, and the physical and emotional abuse of their bitter alcoholic father, they are now forced to make their way through a brutal landscape to find a new place to call home. all they have left in the world is each other, but although they begin their journey together, their paths soon diverge and they are left to reinvent themselves alone in a borrowed country where, as their parents discovered before them, race and gender are obstacles to achieving those promised-land dreams, and sometimes you gotta dig your own way in. this review is coming out badly because my brain doesn’t work anymore, but don’t let my stolid gravy of run-on sentences deter you, the book itself is excellent; raw and lonely and powerful. it’s a beautiful story about a not-so-beautiful family who, like me—hell, like america itself—is deeply flawed but still trying.***********************************review to come, but look! the ARC's pages are GILDED!!how great is that?come to my blog!
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  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    An expansive historical novel bringing to life the start and end of the gold rush, as experienced by a Chinese-American couple and their two children, studious Lucy and tomboyish Sam, who clash as kids and adults over their differences in personality. Lucy and Sam are left orphaned and homeless early in the book; their search for belonging, along with their fraught relationship, lie at the heart of the novel, which nevertheless midway takes a Faulkneresque detour and reveals the backstory of the An expansive historical novel bringing to life the start and end of the gold rush, as experienced by a Chinese-American couple and their two children, studious Lucy and tomboyish Sam, who clash as kids and adults over their differences in personality. Lucy and Sam are left orphaned and homeless early in the book; their search for belonging, along with their fraught relationship, lie at the heart of the novel, which nevertheless midway takes a Faulkneresque detour and reveals the backstory of the siblings’ parents, from the perspective of their dead dad. The lopsided structure and uneven prose make for an odd reading experience, but Zhang’s characterization of her leads is promising.
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  • Diane S ☔
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 Bleak, dark, gritty and thoroughly unforgettable. A well written debut novel to boot. Characters that are multifaceted, and an atmosphere that draws in the reader. Time out of mind, maybe not to s happy place, but to a place that makes one want to learn more.The Gold Rush, 1840's or so and despite many prospecting efforts, they are now considered miners. Though because if their heritage, they are paid less and barely subsisting. Lucy is the eldest, Sam the youngest and their story is told in 4.5 Bleak, dark, gritty and thoroughly unforgettable. A well written debut novel to boot. Characters that are multifaceted, and an atmosphere that draws in the reader. Time out of mind, maybe not to s happy place, but to a place that makes one want to learn more.The Gold Rush, 1840's or so and despite many prospecting efforts, they are now considered miners. Though because if their heritage, they are paid less and barely subsisting. Lucy is the eldest, Sam the youngest and their story is told in different sections. We also learn the stories of their parents, a terrible one under. The story also relates the plight of the Chinese who came over, lured with false promises, to build the railroad. Bleak fates all.The author leaves many questions, conclusions to the reader, making this a good pick for a book discussion. I read this with Angela and Esil, and we found much to discuss. I actually went back and re-read the ending to firm up my thoughts. Think I came to an appropriate conclusion, but others may see it differently. A stellar debut novel, nonetheless.ARC from Edelweiss.
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  • Esil
    January 1, 1970
    A high 4 stars!What a beautifully written and original story! This novel takes place in the mid 19th century at the end of the gold rush in the United States. The story is told primarily from the point of view of Lucy, a young Chinese American girl who's parents hoped to find fortune during the gold rush. At the beginning of the novel, Lucy and her sibling Sam are left alone after both parents have died and they must figure out how to survive. From there, the story goes back and then forward in A high 4 stars!What a beautifully written and original story! This novel takes place in the mid 19th century at the end of the gold rush in the United States. The story is told primarily from the point of view of Lucy, a young Chinese American girl who's parents hoped to find fortune during the gold rush. At the beginning of the novel, Lucy and her sibling Sam are left alone after both parents have died and they must figure out how to survive. From there, the story goes back and then forward in time, showing us how Lucy and Sam came to be where they are and where they end up. C Pam Zhang writes beautifully. Much is left unsaid, and we are left to understand the story through Lucy's impressions. The story has a very bleak feel and Zhang does not romanticize or sugar coat any of her characters and their actions. But this makes for a story with complex characters and a different perspective on a familiar time in American history. I don't like historical fiction that romanticizes history. This is my kind of historical fiction. I had the pleasure of reading this one with my readings buddies, Diane and Angela. During these challenging times, connections with friends are especially important. Thanks also to Edelweiss and the publisher for giving me access to an advance copy.
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  • PattyMacDotComma
    January 1, 1970
    3★She thinks of Ba salting his game. Of salt to scour iron. Of salt in an open wound, a burn that purifies. Salt to clean and salt to save. Salt on a rich mans table every Sunday, a flavor to mark the passage of the week. Salt shrinking the flesh of fruit and meat both, changing it, buying time.Lucy and Sam have gone over a hilltop and seen a salt flat on the other side. They are twelve and eleven, on their own, leaving the mining country where theyve been raised. They are outcasts from the 3★“She thinks of Ba salting his game. Of salt to scour iron. Of salt in an open wound, a burn that purifies. Salt to clean and salt to save. Salt on a rich man’s table every Sunday, a flavor to mark the passage of the week. Salt shrinking the flesh of fruit and meat both, changing it, buying time.”Lucy and Sam have gone over a hilltop and seen a salt flat on the other side. They are twelve and eleven, on their own, leaving the mining country where they’ve been raised. They are outcasts from the mining camp near where they lived. The first part of their ‘escape’ is like something out of Cormac McCarthy or Quentin Tarantino. Gross and grisly. I won’t go into that.I began to seriously question why I was reading this when I got to this part on page 24. They load a trunk “long as a man is tall” onto the back of a horse. “Sam throws rope over Nellie’s back, ties some slipknots. Sam only grunts, putting a shoulder under the trunk to heave it up. Sam’s brown face goes red, then purple from effort. Lucy lends her shoulder too. The trunk slips into a loop of rope. . .” Kids can have enough trouble slinging a heavy saddle over a horse, and that's designed to slip into place. A trunk? No way. And Nellie is not a packhorse or mule that might be used to this kind of handling. She is not even their horse who is used to them. Enough about horses.We learn that they are ‘different’, and we’ve heard bullies call them Chinks. Foreign. Strange. But Ba, their father was actually born ‘here’ and raised by the local native tribe. Ma came from across the water, but it’s a long time into the story before we have some idea of what her background is.“Home sounds like a fairy tale that Ma reads from a secret fourth book, written on the backs of her shut eyelids. Ma speaks of fruit that grows in the shape of stars. Green rocks harder and rarer than gold. She speaks the unpronounceable name of the mountain where she was born.”The book opens with the family settling into a hut of sorts while Ba works in the coal mines. The gold had run out and coal was what was worth money – for the mine owners, not for the workers. But Ba insists that this is only temporary. They are prospectors, not miners. There’s a hierarchy and a class system everywhere, and they are the lowliest of the low.In the beginning, Ba and Ma are presented one way, but later, as the children learn the truth of their relationship, it changes the way we interpret what we read before. That's interesting, but it wasn't enough to keep my attention. (Maybe I was still fixated on the trunk.)I was also becoming annoyed with what I think of as writing-school writing. By that I mean, exercises in putting odd words together to create interesting phrases to attract attention. Some people create wonderful word pictures, but they are apt and enhance the story and move it forward. I really dislike unnecessary metaphors and similes, especially those that are forced and/or don't really make sense. I feel like they were collected and saved up but don't fit. I believe the author is well regarded and this book is being touted as a prize-winner, so I will leave that to others to decide. These are a few phrases that some people will love but which annoy me.“What he consumed seemed only to feed his temper, which stuck to his side like a faithful old cur.”. . . “Sam’s tapping an angry beat come morning, but Lucy, before they go, feels a need to speak. Silence weighs harder on her, pushes till she gives way.”. . . “Sam commences to talk as if speech is a coin hoarded for these past three months.”I chose to read this because I usually enjoy reading about migrants settling into different cultures but never being accepted because they look different. That means they don’t look like northern Europeans. Why that should be the default appearance for acceptable migrants to the United States (and Australia, where I live now) is beyond me. Both countries have many generations of Asians, particularly Chinese, and both are the better for it. But fifth-generation people who ‘look’ Asian are still asked “Where do you come from?” And the answer “San Francisco” or “Sydney” isn’t enough.I did read the whole book, and I'm sure there will be plenty of fans. I'm just not one of them. Thanks to NetGalley and Virago for the preview copy from which I’ve quoted.
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  • Marchpane
    January 1, 1970
    How Much of These Hills is Gold takes place in the Old West during the gold rush years but this is not your typical western. A gentle, sensitive story of a Chinese-American family, its about belonging, yearning, and seeking a home in a place where both the land and its inhabitants are hostile.Our tale begins with the two children, Lucy and Sam, striking out alone to find somewhere to bury their father. Flashing back, we learn more about their parents Ba who catches gold fever and Ma who just How Much of These Hills is Gold takes place in the Old West during the gold rush years but this is not your typical ‘western’. A gentle, sensitive story of a Chinese-American family, it’s about belonging, yearning, and seeking a home in a place where both the land and its inhabitants are hostile.Our tale begins with the two children, Lucy and Sam, striking out alone to find somewhere to bury their father. Flashing back, we learn more about their parents — Ba who catches gold fever and Ma who just wants her little family to be ‘rich in choices’. Later, the story skips ahead five years to a slightly older Lucy and Sam who, having separated, pursue their independence in very different ways.It’s a moving story and I’m always inclined to enjoy historical fiction that brings diversity to the fore; unearthing new perspectives in time-worn genres is like panning for gold and I hope the rush continues for a long time. But what l liked most about HMoTHiG was its vivid images — blazing pale yellow hills under a yawning sky, dusty roads and dried up lakes, glowing fire light — chromatic layers adding to the narrative of ‘earth’ (a home) and ‘gold’ (security).The novel lost some ground for me in the final third (the part where Lucy and Sam are older) as introducing new characters and situations at this late stage diluted some of its earlier power. Zhang’s villains were numerous and a little too one-dimensional overall. But for any book to so completely capture my attention in a very distractible time is no mean feat. 4 stars.
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  • Jonathan
    January 1, 1970
    What makes a ghost a ghost? Can a person be haunted by herself?.How much of these hills is gold was simply put, one of the best novels Ive read in years. A stunning story that was dripping with originality and writing that bled truth on every page. Absolutely transcendent of todays typical novel this book broke barriers and literally had me captivated late into the night, and the only thing C Pam Zhang left me with was an unbearable need for more, of her writing, of her beautiful short prose and “What makes a ghost a ghost? Can a person be haunted by herself?”.How much of these hills is gold was simply put, one of the best novels I’ve read in years. A stunning story that was dripping with originality and writing that bled truth on every page. Absolutely transcendent of todays typical novel this book broke barriers and literally had me captivated late into the night, and the only thing C Pam Zhang left me with was an unbearable need for more, of her writing, of her beautiful short prose and poetic sentences that blew me away. Regardless of “award status” ( which I’m going to already call that this one will be everywhere come next fall) this is the first book on my top of 2020 list sofar. A true gift to the literary world...Set in the midwest from the beginning of the gold rush all the way to the end of it, Zhang opens the novel with the death of Ba, who is the father of two young Asian girls that have already lost their mother. Their father now dead they must travel away from the only “home” they have known and find a place to bury him. Not since Cormac McCarthy or Larry McMurtry has anyone written so feverishly about the American midwest, so descriptive and destructive, bringing to life all the beauty and ravished land these sisters encounter. To put even more of an original spin on things, Lucy ( the older of the two) was never close with her father, and Sam, the youngest identifies more as a male due to the toxic upbringing of her father who so desperately wanted a son so he raised his youngest to be one and she finds along the way that maybe she was meant to be a man all along, and identifies as the male gender...Told over four parts we see the past, present, and future of this family. Part three was my favorite and a heart splitting letter from the ghost of Ba to Lucy explaining his and her mothers life before them, why he did what he did, the secrets kept, and the hardships endured, I was broken by the fact it was never truly told to her but more a fictitious telling of their past. However, that section alone was Pulitzer caliber writing, utterly hypnotized doesn’t even do justice to what that part and this entire novel did to me. A story we’ve never heard, immigrants in America, in the 19th century, not welcomed then, struggling with home and family, sadly still fighting the same fight today. A true genius novel. Be prepared to be blown away.
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  • Libby
    January 1, 1970
    C Pam Zhang words paint a breathtaking landscape that reminds me of the grand vistas depicted in the western movies of the 50s and 60s. In those movies, the rugged individualistic American hero overcomes obstacles to win out over man and nature. In this story, however, two Chinese siblings, Lucy and Sam, who have become orphans live a different reality. Zhang creates a harsh, raw existence that if it doesnt kill you, shapes and molds you, sharpening your character, defining who you are and the C Pam Zhang words paint a breathtaking landscape that reminds me of the grand vistas depicted in the western movies of the 50’s and 60’s. In those movies, the rugged individualistic American hero overcomes obstacles to win out over man and nature. In this story, however, two Chinese siblings, Lucy and Sam, who have become orphans live a different reality. Zhang creates a harsh, raw existence that if it doesn’t kill you, shapes and molds you, sharpening your character, defining who you are and the place you might call home. The setting is the California hills during the Gold Rush. Zhang asks, do you claim the land or does it claim you? The Chinese culture is very much a part of Lucy and Sam’s life. Ba was born in the US, but Ma came over on a ship with 200 people to work on building the Transcontinental Railroad. Bringing the culture and traditions of her homeland with her, Ma draws the lines for a tiger in the doorway of each new home; a supplication for protection. Zhang invokes a mystical aura around the tiger. Ba has a bad leg as a result of a wound from a tiger. After Ba’s death, the girls embark on a long journey, during which they find a tiger skull which they will use to mark Ba’s grave. Other animals arise from the pages as naturally as they used to roam the territory. Zhang talks about the hour of the jackal, the hour of the snake, the hour of the mole. There will be an encounter with the elusive buffalo.Zhang writes with honesty and clarity. I would not call her writing lyrical, but it is beautiful and compelling. The sibling relationship between Lucy and Sam is at the center of the novel and Zhang will draw stark contrasts between the two. At first I think Sam, who is enthralled by Ba, will become as angry in life as Ba was. As the novel progresses, a different Sam emerges and I begin to feel a deep sadness about Ba’s life. Zhang reaches into these characters and pulls things to the surface. How Lucy and Sam rise up from their parents, the secrets they keep, and the people they become made for an engaging read. This would be an excellent choice for group reading as there are many levels to explore.
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  • Elle
    January 1, 1970
    This land is not your land.Thats a hell of a quote to begin a book with, but it underscores the tone of whats to follow. Plainly, the world is blunt, harsh and unexpectedjust like this novel. When Im picking historical fiction to read, I usually try to steer clear of the over-saturated time periods or perspectives. Im pretty much burnt out on anything even approaching the World Wars, especially the second one, for as long as it takes for there to be a third....so hopefully not in my lifetime. “This land is not your land.”That’s a hell of a quote to begin a book with, but it underscores the tone of what’s to follow. Plainly, the world is blunt, harsh and unexpected—just like this novel. When I’m picking historical fiction to read, I usually try to steer clear of the over-saturated time periods or perspectives. I’m pretty much burnt out on anything even approaching the World Wars, especially the second one, for as long as it takes for there to be a third....so hopefully not in my lifetime. Taking place during the American gold rush of the mid 19th century, How Much of These Hills Is Gold is a look back at a period in time when this country was rapidly expanding, and its inhabitants changing along with it. As the children of immigrants from China, Lucy and Sam, along with their parents, represent a portion of the American experience that history usually prefers to gloss over, if not exclude all together. The two siblings’ lives vary so much from their parents as well as their white neighbors, that they can’t seem to find a sense of belonging. After the deaths of their Ma and Ba they wander the Wild West somewhat aimlessly, not sure what they’re really looking for. This ended up being my favorite part of the book, as we get to unravel a complex sibling relationship through observing how they coped with this shared sudden devastation.The West is a hard place full of hardened people. One of the themes of the book centers around parents who feel like they have to ‘toughen-up’ their kids. The idea is that by enacting cruelty on their children, they‘re more prepared for a cruel world. This isn’t a concept that’s totally disappeared, especially if you’re trying to raise kids in a country that (still) has rampant racism and discrimination. But for the adults who are responding to misbehaving children, with anger alongside punishment, is that actually their reasoning or just a convenient excuse after the fact? In the novel, I found it difficult to empathize with the alleged grown-up(s) who rationalized their own bad behavior instead of trying to curb it.The effects of this type of discipline also manifests differently based on the children themselves. I alternated feeling bad for both Lucy and Sam, as they took turns feeling rejected by their family and community. Even the appearance of favoritism can lead to resentment, and it’s heartbreaking to watch it play out between two siblings who are supposed to love one another. Sam and Lucy may share a history, but they have completely different struggles and desires. But they’re still bonded forever because of what they’ve been through together.This is a pretty short book, and I found myself unexpectedly caught up in it. I’m not usually a western person, but maybe after this I’ll give them a chance. I’ve had True Grit on my TBR forever, so possibly that or something by Cormac McCarthy. Any recommendations appreciated, but I’m not super interested in any ‘Lone Man’ narratives or anything that involves “frontier justice” targeted at Native Americans. Basically anything that Clint Eastwood would star in is gonna be a no from me.*Thanks to Riverhead Books & Goodreads for an advance copy!
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  • Laura • lauralovestoread
    January 1, 1970
    This was such a unique take on historical fiction of the California gold rush combined with lyrical prose. The writing style took me a few chapters to get into, but I loved that at the heart of this story, the reader gets to see family hardships and experiences of that time combined with the Chinese culture. Zhang writes with touches of magical realism to really bring this story to life, and I loved this reading experience!*thank you Riverhead for the gifted copy
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  • Emma
    January 1, 1970
    There are so many themes in this book: identity, belonging, loss, home, loneliness. Ive always been fascinated by the history of the gold rush, the building of the railways and the use of Chinese immigrants to complete this work. What does it mean to be displaced in a new and cruel land? How do you ever belong? Who can you trust? I am lucky enough to have lived a very settled life, but what happens if you have no roots? If you have no home and are not welcome wherever you go? To leave your There are so many themes in this book: identity, belonging, loss, home, loneliness. I’ve always been fascinated by the history of the gold rush, the building of the railways and the use of Chinese immigrants to complete this work. What does it mean to be displaced in a new and cruel land? How do you ever belong? Who can you trust? I am lucky enough to have lived a very settled life, but what happens if you have no roots? If you have no home and are not welcome wherever you go? To leave your history behind, knowing it counts for less than nothing? This book was quite unsettling to me because it raises so many questions, without necessarily providing answers. A very powerful and thought-provoking read. Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.
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  • Gumble's Yard
    January 1, 1970
    Because this land they live in is a land of missing things. A land stripped of its gold, its rivers, its buffalo, its Indians, its tigers, its jackals, its birds and its green and its living. To move through this land and believe Bas tales is to see each hill as a burial mound with its own crown of bones. Who could believe that and survive? Who could believe that and keep from looking, as Ba and Sam do, always toward the past? And so Lucy fears that unwritten history. Easier to dismiss all Bas Because this land they live in is a land of missing things. A land stripped of its gold, its rivers, its buffalo, its Indians, its tigers, its jackals, its birds and its green and its living. To move through this land and believe Ba’s tales is to see each hill as a burial mound with its own crown of bones. Who could believe that and survive? Who could believe that and keep from looking, as Ba and Sam do, always toward the past? And so Lucy fears that unwritten history. Easier to dismiss all Ba’s tales as tall ones—because believe, and where does it end? If she believes that tigers live, then does she believe that Indians are hunted and dying? If she believes in fish the size of men, does she believe in men who string up others like linefuls of catch? Easier to avoid that history, unwritten as it is except in the soughing of dry grass, in the marks of lost trails, in the rumors from the mouths of bored men and mean girls, in the cracked patterns of buffalo bone. Easier by far to read the history that Teacher Leigh teaches, those names and dates orderly as bricks, stacked to build a civilization. Still. Lucy never quite escapes that other. The wild one. It prowls the edges of her vision, an animal just beyond the campfire’s glow. That history speaks not in words but in roar and beat and blood. That history made Lucy as the lake made gold. Made Sam’s wildness, and Ba’s limp, and made the yearning in Ma’s voice when she speaks of the ocean. But to stare down that history makes Lucy dizzy, as if she peers from the wrong end of a spyglass to see Ba and Ma smaller than her, Ba and Ma with bas and mas of their own, across an ocean bigger than the vanished lake. The genesis of this novel was in a short story (available here and which serves as a great introduction to the two key characters in the novel, its themes and its writing style: https://longreads.com/2017/08/03/and-...) which now forms the opening of the novel.Two just-orphaned Chinese-descent siblings, 12-year old Lucy (the third party narrator) and her 11-year old sister Sam (who dresses and largely identifies as a boy), head out into post Gold-rush ’62 California wilderness with a horse they stole from Lucy’s old schoolteacher and the body of their gold-prospector-turned-coal-miner-turned-secret-prospector father.The book is told in four sections: the first in ’62 tells of Lucy and Sam’s escape and Sam’s quest both for a burial place for their father and a hidden wilderness where he believes that giant buffalo and even tigers still roam. The second goes back to ’59 and tells of the events that lead to their escape: their mother having been buried in an unmarked grave by her father after the premature still-birth of their younger brother in a storm, shortly after a small fortune that the family had accumulated (so as to buy a passage back to China) had been taken from them, an event which lead to their father’s descent into despondency, alcoholism and domestic violence.Both sections are recounted in an evocative and descriptive prose, shot through with description of the still basic Wild American West (each section featuring chapters named Gold, Plum, Salt, Skull, Wind, Mud, Meat, Water or Blood and where each chapter’s title captures a crucial and elemental part of the essence of the life described in it), with Lucy’s memory of the Chinese folklore, snatches of language and Zodiacal 12-hour system (again that system often informing the events of the chapter). The motif a Tiger – precious to their mother – reoccurs frequently.The third section is a departure – a single-chapter posthumous account by their father of his and their mother’s backstory, an account which as it proceeds appears not so much as having been discovered and read posthumously as written posthumously and unread/undiscovered by Lucy.The fourth it set 5 years after the first (and returns to the chapter structure of the first two) – the now 17-year old Lucy living in a town, having been befriended by a Gold-mine heiress has her immersion into some form of domesticity thrown up in the air by the return of Sam after five years of gambling, prospecting, possibly stealing and adventure. Sam’s arrival is preceded by a rumoured Tiger hunting on the outskirts of the town – something which is not coincidental. Sam and Lucy then head for the Coast and passage to China as their past threatens to catch up on them. The American-West described in the tale has some seeming anomalies – not least the Tiger and Buffalo – and possesses something of a mythical nature.This is very deliberate; the author has said of the realisation that crucially inspired the writing of the book: Generations of authors have molded the mythology of the American West for their own purposes. I grew up on John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House, Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. Awed, I believed the settings of those books to be gritty, factual, real. As an adult I’ve learned how much of the West in those stories is fiction or exaggeration – including their overwhelming whiteness. I don’t appreciate those books any less. Rather, I take from them the lesson that I, too, have the freedom and audacity to invent the lesson that we call history is not granite but sandstone – soft, given form by its carvers. And hasn’t that always been the way of the American West, epic and beautiful, conflicted and stolen, paradoxical and maddening, which has so captured the imagination that it is difficult to disentangle the myths from reality? In particular, her own myth-remolding serves as a way to examine two key aspects: the meaning of truth and history and who gets to tell it and the timeless pressures of the immigrant experience – particularly the second or third generational immigrant, caught between two lands. Both are captured in the passage which opens my review.Lucy over time realises the power of paper – and of who is writing the story. As a child she is temporarily taken under the wing of a school teacher who has travelled from the East Coast on a self-motivated charitable enterprise to teach the miner’s children (and to document his results) and sees Lucy as a special project The teacher smiles. “He who writes the past writes the future too.’ Do you know who said that?” He bows. “I did. I’m a historian myself, and may require your assistance in my newest monograph. When later, following Sam retaliating to some racist bullying, they are summarily expelled by him: “You may go,” the teacher says at last. “All the work we’ve done is useless now.” His voice is bitter. “You understand I’ll be removing you from the history—there’s no value in a half-finished chapter. Later in the town, the framed deeds to the Gold holdings of her friends father, stand in stark contrast to her father’s undocumented Gold discoveries and their different fates (her father dying in poverty, robbed of what he had, her friend’s father wealthy and powerful from what he has legally taken from others) act as a constant reminder of the power of paper and writing to control legitimacyIn terms of the immigrant experience: Lucy herself is caught by conflicting pressures and yearnings. Her own conservative inclination is towards civilisation, safety, anonymity and she is most intrigued by the tales she hears from her short-term schoolteacher of the American East: But Lucy liked to hear about the next territory, and the next one, even farther East. Those flat plains where water is abundant and green stretches in every direction. Where towns have shade trees and paved roads, houses of wood and glass. Where instead of wet and dry there are seasons with names like song: autumn, winter, summer, spring. Where stores carry cloth in every color, candy in every shape. Civilization holds the word civil in its heart and so Lucy imagines kids who dress nice and speak nicer, storekeepers who smile, doors held open instead of slammed, and everything—handkerchiefs, floors, words—clean. A place unimaginable in these dry, unchanging hills. A place where two girls might be wholly unremarkable. In Lucy’s fondest dream, the one she doesn’t want to wake from, she braves no dragons and tigers. Finds no gold. She sees wonders from a distance, her face unnoticed in the crowd. When she walks down the long street that leads her home, no one pays her any mind at all. Repeatedly even in the melting-pot of the West she is made aware of her foreigness and lack of belonging (of course by those who have only just stolen the land from the Indians and the buffalo) – her appearance always marking her out, causing people to question her origins and making it clear: This land is not your land. Her thoughts are further confused by the different identities (and even tricks to remember them) that are drummed into her from a young age by her father (keen to make it clear that the land belongs to her and she to it) and her mother (keen to remind her of her family base) Ba taught this trick when Lucy was three or four. Playing, she’d lost sight of the wagon. The enormous lid of sky pinned her down. The grass’s ceaseless billow. She wasn’t like Sam, bold from birth, always wandering. She cried. When Ba found her hours later, he shook her. Then he told her to look up. Stand long enough under open sky in these parts, and a curious thing happens. At first the clouds meander, aimless. Then they start to turn, swirling toward you at their center. Stand long enough and it isn’t the hills that shrink—it’s you that grows. Like you could step over and reach the distant blue mountains, if you so chose. Like you were a giant and all this your land. You get lost again, you remember you belong to this place as much as anybody, Ba said. Don’t be afeared of it. Ting wo? Ting le? Ma asked, holding her hands over Lucy’s ears. Silence for that first moment. Then the throb and whoosh of Lucy’s own blood. It’s inside you. Where you come from. The sound of the ocean. A tension captured in: There’s no one like us here, Ma said sadly and Ba proudly. We come from across the ocean, she said. We’re the very first, he said. Special, he said. Overall an entertaning story, one which I can see featuring on prize lists this year.My thanks to Little Brown for an ARC via NetGalley
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  • Kathleen
    January 1, 1970
    A body needs burying! Twelve and eleven-year-old Lucy and Sam take their fathers decaying body to a suitable burial ground inside a wooden trunk strapped to the back of a stolen horse. These American-born children of Chinese heritage are told time-and-time again that this land is not your land. But it is the land that speaks to Lucythe golden hills, the hot sun, the dust, and the storms. Finding the proper burial ground for Ba takes time in such a land.Ba, also native born, was part of the gold A body needs burying! Twelve and eleven-year-old Lucy and Sam take their father’s decaying body to a suitable burial ground inside a wooden trunk strapped to the back of a stolen horse. These American-born children of Chinese heritage are told time-and-time again that “this land is not your land”. But it is the land that speaks to Lucy—the golden hills, the hot sun, the dust, and the storms. Finding the proper burial ground for Ba takes time in such a land.Ba, also native born, was part of the gold rush—at least until it became against the law to own the gold he found in the hills. Lucy and Sam do not find an America of abundance, they find “a land of missing things. A land stripped of its gold, its rivers, its buffalo, its Indians, its birds and its green and its living.”The themes of hope and loss repeat themselves in this well-written debut novel. Enjoy!
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  • Lou
    January 1, 1970
    How Much of These Hills is Gold is a powerful and captivating debut novel and the untold story of the arrival of Chinese-American immigrants to the US during the Gold Rush but also a novel about the conflict between two siblings, carrying the body of their newly deceased father across a harsh landscape. Set primarily in the 1860s at a time when the whole area is being opened up to accommodate settlers we meet twelve-year-old Lucy and eleven-year-old Sam who have lost their mother a while ago and How Much of These Hills is Gold is a powerful and captivating debut novel and the untold story of the arrival of Chinese-American immigrants to the US during the Gold Rush but also a novel about the conflict between two siblings, carrying the body of their newly deceased father across a harsh landscape. Set primarily in the 1860s at a time when the whole area is being opened up to accommodate settlers we meet twelve-year-old Lucy and eleven-year-old Sam who have lost their mother a while ago and now have also lost their father and guiding hand, Ba. Having travelled to America for a better life and to live the American Dream they quickly realise that the grass is not always greener on the other side. They face disgusting racism that was rife at the time and everything they attempt appears to be difficult to deliver. The landscape very much plays a dominant role in the book with its sheer brutality and oppressiveness. It creates a claustrophobic and often harsh atmosphere.This is nothing short of an exquisite and simply mesmerising tale and it manages to be both original and deeply moving. You are instantly drawn to by the family and cast of characters and the hardships and adversity they face only further endear them to you. There were times that my heart was breaking for them and I was desperate to see them get a break. It highlights the bounce-back ability and boldness of the human spirit and so ensues the problem with capitalism where those who are wealthy stay that way and those manual workers faced perpetually with the struggle to makes ends meet remain poor. I enjoyed the way there was many philosophical and thought-provoking topics, immigration, race, gender, sibling rivalry, to name a few, broached throughout and there are many wise words that could transfer easily into today’s political climate. I can not recommend this stunning book highly enough. A haunting and evocative read and one that will not be forgotten easily. Many thanks to Virago for an ARC.
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  • Paris (parisperusing)
    January 1, 1970
    "Lucy leans back through the years and hits Sam across the face. Gulls screech and rise in the hard, clear air. The shadows of their wings darken Sam's cheek. Sam's eyes. Lucy learned from the best. How to pivot and how to swing. How to put the whole weight of your body and your good leg and your bad life, yes, your life weighed down by grief as heavy as gold in the silt of your stomachhow to put it all behind a blow. How to then roar and break a person with words, make a person feel small and "Lucy leans back through the years and hits Sam across the face. Gulls screech and rise in the hard, clear air. The shadows of their wings darken Sam's cheek. Sam's eyes. … Lucy learned from the best. How to pivot and how to swing. How to put the whole weight of your body and your good leg and your bad life, yes, your life weighed down by grief as heavy as gold in the silt of your stomach—how to put it all behind a blow. How to then roar and break a person with words, make a person feel small and stupid. … How to stroke a face afterward. Bao bei."It starts with a death: 12-year-old Lucy and 11-year-old Sam — siblings, something like sisters — wake to find their Ba dead in the thick of the night, years after Ma chose a ghost life of her own. Even as Ba’s life comes to an end, his vestige of tough love remains a warm wound against Lucy’s cheek and a pang of pride in his beloved “son” Sam, who, guns blazing, leads the way in a tortuous journey to lay Ba to rest in a proper burial.While fending for each other in the uncharted hills of the West, Lucy and Sam must confront their grief, identity, and long-kept secrets with little more than the compass of their youth to guide them. After months in the wild, the siblings find themselves at a crossroads that will alter the next five years of their life: poor Lucy becomes a confidant to a wealthy friend, Sam an outlaw prospecting the hills for gold, or perhaps for Ba.As if witnessing the trajectories of Sam and Lucy’s lives weren’t devastating as it were, it is all the stories kept hidden away from these orphans that makes the pain an anchor upon the reader’s heart, even more for where their stories end. It is what we learn about Ma and Ba when it is too late, and how trauma trickles down in the most unimaginable ways that make this book so larger than life.C Pam Zhang's How Much of These Hills Is Gold is an indelible tale about a family of four withered to two siblings whose paths are blown asunder by the gale of death, secrecy, lies, and displacement — all in search for the American Dream. Written with compelling language, oral tradition, and eidetic imagination, Zhang’s debut invokes not only the land on which those gilded hills were born, but a country built on broken promises, lost cultures, and rewritten histories.Iconoclastic and formidable, this book bears the brunt of an unforgettable writer who should be described as nothing less than a force of nature.(Thank you for sending my way, Riverhead friends! 💙)If you liked my review, feel free to follow me @parisperusing on Instagram.
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  • Elena L.
    January 1, 1970
    What makes a gook book a good story?HOW MUCH OF THESE HILLS IS GOLD follows the lives of two Chinese-American siblings - Lucy and Sam - when their Ba has just died. In the context of California Gold Rush, these newly orphans strive to find purpose of their lives and somewhere to call home.It took me awhile to get invested in the story while I found myself wondering which direction the plot was going plus getting used to the writing style in the beginning, yet once I figured out the bigger What makes a gook book a good story?HOW MUCH OF THESE HILLS IS GOLD follows the lives of two Chinese-American siblings - Lucy and Sam - when their Ba has just died. In the context of California Gold Rush, these newly orphans strive to find purpose of their lives and somewhere to call home.It took me awhile to get invested in the story while I found myself wondering which direction the plot was going plus getting used to the writing style in the beginning, yet once I figured out the bigger picture, I could not put this book down. At first I thought it was a weird family dynamic, however, soon I understood how the characters' behavior is affected by circumstances that happen in their lives - the reason the siblings were apathetic dealing with situations that people would normally desperate. Through non-linear narrative, Zhang writes with a singular and lyrical style the hardships that this family has to endure and the heartbreaking experiences that fall upon them. The author also weaves in a lot of Chinese culture with a bit of magical realism elements, making specific cultural references and using pinyin (which can be a challenge for non-Chinese readers to understand but this fact only increased my familiarity with this novel). Moreover, Zhang creates well-crafted and complex characters that I grew to care for as I was utterly interested in their development and backstory. In the latter part, this book was filled with such tenderness that not only warmed my heart but also left me wanting more. How much of these hills is gold is an unforgettable storytelling that offers a rich perspective about American West family's life during the Gold Rush and deep exploration of immigrant experience, complexities of family, home, identity, loss, belonging and gender identity.It is an intimate look that evokes raw emotions and I am looking forward to reading more Zhang next title.[ I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review ]
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  • Jaclyn Crupi
    January 1, 1970
    How much of this book is gold 100%! As much as I love McMurtrys Lonesome Dove THIS is the imagined mythology of the American West I want to read. This book will haunt you, it will break you, it will embolden you. Writing this good is a thing of beauty and it simply lights up in your hands. The prose is electrifying. ELECTRIFYING! The story is heart-breaking. The characters! The sense of place! I could go on and on. And I will. I could tell in the first 20 pages that this would be one of my How much of this book is gold – 100%! As much as I love McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove THIS is the imagined mythology of the American West I want to read. This book will haunt you, it will break you, it will embolden you. Writing this good is a thing of beauty and it simply lights up in your hands. The prose is electrifying. ELECTRIFYING! The story is heart-breaking. The characters! The sense of place! I could go on and on. And I will. I could tell in the first 20 pages that this would be one of my favourite books of 2020. Lucy and Sam, Ma and Ba, your story is in me now and I won’t soon forget you.
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  • Beverly
    January 1, 1970
    thoughts coming shortly
  • Abbie | ab_reads
    January 1, 1970
    (#gifted @viragopress) One that Im sure youll see popping up across bookstagram (or already have!) - and for good reason - C Pam Zhangs debut novel is as much a love letter to language as it is an exploration of immigration and identity just after the Gold Rush in America..Two things struck me the most about this novel: the evocative imagery of the beautiful but desolate landscape, and Sam. I dont want to say too much about Sam as theyre a character best left discovered for yourself, but I loved (#gifted @viragopress) One that I’m sure you’ll see popping up across bookstagram (or already have!) - and for good reason - C Pam Zhang’s debut novel is as much a love letter to language as it is an exploration of immigration and identity just after the Gold Rush in America..Two things struck me the most about this novel: the evocative imagery of the beautiful but desolate landscape, and Sam. I don’t want to say too much about Sam as they’re a character best left discovered for yourself, but I loved Zhang’s portrayal of a character questioning their own identity, especially in a nineteenth century society that was so rigid..The story of orphans Lucy and Sam is told in sections which jump back and forth through time, from them struggling to bury their father back to their lives as younger children battling the prejudices that came with being of Chinese descent, back again to their parents’ meeting and then forward to where and how they’ve settled. I was enthralled by every section, each storyline as compelling as the last..Although I do highly recommend this one, I don’t recommend you read it right now if you’re currently struggling with the dreaded lockdown reading slump. Zhang’s prose is verging on poetry at times, and it actually took me about 50 pages to fully get into the swing of it. There are a lot of sentences lacking a verb, thoughtfully constructed, and while you might think that would lead to static prose, Zhang pairs it with short section breaks and chapters. I’ve never read anything like it, it felt very fresh!.This one is out this week (Thursday) in the UK with @viragopress! I think we can all agree that now is not an ideal time to be a debut author, so if this sounds like your cup of tea then definitely get your orders in if you can!
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  • C Zhang
    January 1, 1970
    it's the law
  • Claire
    January 1, 1970
    How Much of These Hills is Gold is an epic of the Wild West but not quite in the traditional sense. Zhangs story is a compelling one, of hope and adventure, adversity and strength, resilience and compromise set against the harsh and unforgiving landscape. Where this steps apart from conventional westerns, is that it tells the story of two children of Chinese-American immigrants. In this way, this is also a story of belonging and othering; of the lengths we go to to fit in, and the different ways How Much of These Hills is Gold is an epic of the Wild West but not quite in the traditional sense. Zhang’s story is a compelling one, of hope and adventure, adversity and strength, resilience and compromise set against the harsh and unforgiving landscape. Where this steps apart from conventional westerns, is that it tells the story of two children of Chinese-American immigrants. In this way, this is also a story of belonging and othering; of the lengths we go to to fit in, and the different ways we seek to do so. I found the story compelling on both fronts, beautifully written. Zhang’s central characters are complex, and really illustrate the deep levels of compromise that allow survival in an unforgiving world where the villains are plenty. My main criticism is that at times the pacing fell away, and the final section lacked the immediacy of the first sections. Generally an excellent and compelling read.
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  • Lori
    January 1, 1970
    Ever since experiencing my first Cormac McCarthy novel, I've had this growing fascination with contemporary grit-lit western fiction. When it's done well, oh how my heart swells at the sheer beauty of it. Props to Zhang for (1) the withholding of the progtagonists pronouns and the almost nonchalant way she finally brings them in, teasing the reader with only the behaviors, gently ah-ah-ah'ing us, tsking at how quick we are to make assumptions and (2) that heart wrenching scene in the latter half Ever since experiencing my first Cormac McCarthy novel, I've had this growing fascination with contemporary grit-lit western fiction. When it's done well, oh how my heart swells at the sheer beauty of it. Props to Zhang for (1) the withholding of the progtagonists pronouns and the almost nonchalant way she finally brings them in, teasing the reader with only the behaviors, gently ah-ah-ah'ing us, tsking at how quick we are to make assumptions and (2) that heart wrenching scene in the latter half of the book where ba speaks to Lucy from beyond the grave. Man. Just... oh man. Incredibly well done, even if the going is quite slow to start. With this one, it's all about the journey and less about the destination.
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  • Dan
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars
  • Madeline
    January 1, 1970
    When I started this, I had forgotten what it was about and where it was set. My surprise quickly turned to joy as I realized I was reading a story that I had never read before, one so unique in its setting, characters, and plot that I couldn't help but smile. It's rare to read something that feels quite new and unexpected, and this story felt that way for me. We follow Lucy and Sam after their father dies. As two young siblings, around ages seven and eleven, they must bury their father, and ride When I started this, I had forgotten what it was about and where it was set. My surprise quickly turned to joy as I realized I was reading a story that I had never read before, one so unique in its setting, characters, and plot that I couldn't help but smile. It's rare to read something that feels quite new and unexpected, and this story felt that way for me. We follow Lucy and Sam after their father dies. As two young siblings, around ages seven and eleven, they must bury their father, and ride out into the hills to find a suitable location. Sam is persistent, dragging Lucy along after she would much rather stop. In this opening sequence, we learn so much about the two siblings—one who is headstrong, confident, and aches for the open sky, and one who is ambitious, cautious, and prefers the enforced civilization of a town. Sam and Lucy part ways for a time, and we follow only Lucy's story as she grows up and learns more about herself.The only stories I have read set during the American gold rush are from the perspective of white settlers, so I really enjoyed reading of an Asian family, one who has just as much right to be there as their white neighbors. Sam and Lucy were both born in America, and identify with the harsh landscape and lifestyle that they grew up with. Yet adventure is in both of their bones, and it leads them to vastly different outcomes. This story is heartbreaking yet forgiving as we learn how two young siblings grow, change, and come back together. While they are so different, loyalty ties them together and their deep bond remains unbroken by time.The timeline and narrative structure left me a bit confused at times, but I appreciated the chance to learn of Lucy and Sam's parents, and their story built on love, lies, and determination. This story is one I've never heard before, and is at once familiar and alien. I absolutely cherished reading it, and can see the echoes of a tale like this in our lives today. There is much to take from it, and much to learn. Both Sam and Lucy are so strong, and their bond remains inspiring even after finishing this story.Thank you to Riverhead Books and Edelweiss for providing me with an advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Basia
    January 1, 1970
    How Much of These Hills Is Gold is a ghostly journey to the past and back again, rolling down dry hills and dirt roads, with two young, steadfast protagonists seeking what it means to be and what it means to belong. Zhang joins the ranks of writers like Jesmyn Ward and even William Faulkner, with her skillful reimagining of the road novel, in which death and memory are driving forces, and even the landscape seems to speak in languages of weather, light and animal tracks. Plus, Zhang's prose is How Much of These Hills Is Gold is a ghostly journey to the past and back again, rolling down dry hills and dirt roads, with two young, steadfast protagonists seeking what it means to be and what it means to belong. Zhang joins the ranks of writers like Jesmyn Ward and even William Faulkner, with her skillful reimagining of the road novel, in which death and memory are driving forces, and even the landscape seems to speak in languages of weather, light and animal tracks. Plus, Zhang's prose is both rhythmic and supercharged—full of poetic sentences that pull at the heart. This is a starry debut!
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  • Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 🌟 This is one I was incredibly excited to read - a literary western of sorts, from a perspective not traditionally written from or by, really piqued my interest. Starting with the positives (because there were a lot of them in this!), I loved the way this narrative explored grief and the complexities of that - we start the story following two children who are dealing with their fathers death (quite literally, they take his body with them when they leave town!). The jumps in linearity made 3.5 🌟 This is one I was incredibly excited to read - a literary western of sorts, from a perspective not traditionally written from or by, really piqued my interest. Starting with the positives (because there were a lot of them in this!), I loved the way this narrative explored grief and the complexities of that - we start the story following two children who are dealing with their father’s death (quite literally, they take his body with them when they leave town!). The jumps in linearity made this feel like an unraveling, and for the first three parts of the novel this was perfection.While I enjoyed these early parts it wasn’t until part three that I was completely blown away - this section is told from the perspective of their father’s ghost. This step back in the linearity of the narrative, and the context it gave to the background of this family, was breathtaking. There was an intimacy to the writing in this section that felt like the reader was really spoken to directly, possibly because Lucy’s father directs his conversation with the reader towards telling Lucy this story of their family. The way it looked at prejudices and history (the telling of it and who “gets” to be included in this as a subject and a storyteller), and gender (the shifts explored in Sam’s character) were stunningly written. For me, the disjoint in the narrative came in part four when we rejoin the perspectives of Lucy and Sam in a different time period. There were some secondary character threads that felt like they were unresolved overall, and a lot in the plot itself that made huge jumps and left the reader to read between lines. From a narrative that has been quite rich in detail and express up until this point, the move to more abstraction in the plot left me feeling like I’d missed something. Stylistically I loved the decision with the final sentence and think that worked extremely well, though not enough to bring back the power I felt in the earlier parts of the narrative.Many thanks to Riverhead for providing a review copy.
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  • Tyler Stevens
    January 1, 1970
    Brilliant. A fantastically crafted and ambitious debut novel that turns the classic Western on its head in the best possible way. It breathes life into the land and the oft ignored people who built it and shaped it into what it is today. Its filled with beautiful prose, tender descriptions of a harsh land, and complete & complex characters navigating issues that have been present in this country since its inception. Brilliant. A fantastically crafted and ambitious debut novel that turns the classic Western on its head in the best possible way. It breathes life into the land and the oft ignored people who built it and shaped it into what it is today. It’s filled with beautiful prose, tender descriptions of a harsh land, and complete & complex characters navigating issues that have been present in this country since it’s inception.
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  • The Artisan Geek
    January 1, 1970
    8/11/19Riverhead Books kindly gifted me a copy of this book. :)You can find me onYoutube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website
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