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




Overview -
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR

A WASHINGTON POST NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR

ONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR

ONE OF NPR'S BEST BOOKS OF 2020

LONGLISTED FOR THE 2020 BOOKER PRIZE

FINALIST FOR THE 2020 CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE

WINNER OF THE ROSENTHAL FAMILY FOUNDATION AWARD, FROM THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ARTS AND LETTERS

A NATIONAL BOOK FOUNDATION 5 UNDER 35 HONOREE

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

"Belongs on a shelf all of its own." --NPR

"Outstanding." --The Washington Post

"Revolutionary . . . A visionary addition to American literature." --Star Tribune

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 reimagined 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.

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Overview

A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR

A WASHINGTON POST NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR

ONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR

ONE OF NPR'S BEST BOOKS OF 2020

LONGLISTED FOR THE 2020 BOOKER PRIZE

FINALIST FOR THE 2020 CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE

WINNER OF THE ROSENTHAL FAMILY FOUNDATION AWARD, FROM THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ARTS AND LETTERS

A NATIONAL BOOK FOUNDATION 5 UNDER 35 HONOREE

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

"Belongs on a shelf all of its own." --NPR

"Outstanding." --The Washington Post

"Revolutionary . . . A visionary addition to American literature." --Star Tribune

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 reimagined 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.

 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525537205
  • ISBN-10: 0525537201
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books
  • Publish Date: April 2020
  • Page Count: 288
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.05 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

How Much of These Hills Is Gold

After their gold-prospecting father dies, 12-year-old Lucy and 11-year-old Sam are left to fend for themselves in the gold rush days of the American West. The first task of these Chinese American sisters is to bury “Ba,” and tradition dictates they place two silver dollars over his eyes—two coins they don’t have. The girls head to a bank, and all hell breaks loose when a banker casts them out with a hateful epithet.

That’s just the first of many action-packed scenes in C Pam Zhang’s standout debut. Lucy and Sam’s odyssey unfolds in a series of edge-of-your-seat twists and turns, bringing to mind the classic True Grit and Paulette Jiles’ News of the World, two Westerns that also feature fierce young heroines. Yet Zhang turns the genre on its head by writing a historical saga that also serves as a modern immigration novel. Before dying, Ba tells his eldest, “I grew up knowing I belonged to this land, Lucy girl. You and Sam do too, never mind how you look. Don’t you let any man with a history book tell you different.” Ma, however, offers polar-opposite advice. While Ba dreams of having a large, isolated parcel of property, Ma warns, “Gold can’t buy everything. This will never be our land.”

Unfolding in a carefully structured, nonlinear fashion, the novel repeatedly questions what makes a home a home and what makes a family a family. Zhang was born in Beijing and, she writes in her bio, has lived “in thirteen cities across four countries and is still looking for home.”

The book also wonders at the nature of truth and who can be trusted. Because boys earn a higher wage working in the coal mines, Sam begins wearing boys’ clothes and finds that this new identity suits her, thus bringing to the forefront issues of gender, identity and cultural and sexual prejudice. 

Zhang’s sparse prose style may initially take some getting used to, but both language and plot remain clearly focused. Daringly original, How Much of These Hills Is Gold is gritty and frequently gruesome, yet at times magical and ethereal, incorporating tiger paw prints and a buffalo sighting, along with a fog-filled view of San Francisco and the wild ocean beyond. 

Zhang’s laser-sharp reexamination of America’s myth-laden past is likely to help bring clarity to many issues that continue to challenge us all. 

 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: C Pam Zhang discusses the “gold-soaked sun” and hauntings of the American West.

 

BAM Customer Reviews