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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C. Pam Zhang

Zhang's detail was wonderful, and her characters make noble sacrifices and face impossible choices. The book's frequent heartbreak was a challenge for me.

I listened to How Much of These Hills Is Gold as an audiobook. I love a Gold Rush story, a young adult story, a story about brave young women meeting challenges. And I love historical fiction set in the Western United States. (If you do too, take a look at my Greedy Reading List of Six Great Historical Fiction Stories Set in the American West).

In How Much of These Hills Is Gold, Lucy and Sam are orphaned siblings who must become tough as nails to make their way in the world and to boost each other through rough times. There's courage, and fighting racial inequality any way they can, and never accepting defeat.

Zhang layers the kids' current circumstances and journey with stories of the youth and origins of the siblings' recently deceased parents--their beloved mother and very difficult, hard-drinking, rough-fisted father Ba. (Ba shares sensitive reflections, regrets, and advice with Lucy in his own sections of the story--but, maddeningly, she never hears them).

I struggled to finish this book. Zhang's detail was wonderful, but the pacing was slow--detailing Lucy and Sam's (and their parents' long-ago) long journeys and extended memories. The characters' circumstances were often intensely difficult, and they endure horrific tragedies with few bright spots. Characters make noble sacrifices and face impossible choices, make heartbreaking missteps, and come to terms with challenging realities.

Covid-era, pre-election, and while facing pre-pandemic, depressingly modified holidays might not be the best timing for me to have read an often-grim (though valiant) struggle for survival. It just felt like too much.

Any Bossy thoughts on this book?

This is Zhang's first novel.

I mentioned this book (along with To Sleep in a Sea of Stars and Head Over Heels) in the Greedy Reading List Three Books I'm Reading Now, 11/3/20 Edition.


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