How Much Of These Hills Is Gold
By C Pam Zhang
A GOOP Book Club Pick“A fully immersive epic drama packed with narrative riches and exquisitely crafted prose.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Belongs on a shelf all of its own.” —NPR
“Outstanding.” —The Washington Post
“Arresting, beautiful.” —The New York Times
“Revolutionary . . . A visionary addition to American literature.” —Star Tribune
Lucy, twelve, and her androgynous sister Sam, eleven, wake to find their father has died in the night and left them orphans. Sam insists that Ba have a “proper burial” like Ma showed them. For this they need two coins for Ba’s eyes- and the right spot. Procuring two coins is not easy and they soon find themselves on the run. Throwing their father’s body on the back of a horse they get out of town as fast as they can. The unforgiving landscape of the American West is the backdrop to this story.What did it make me think about?
Looking through Lucy’s eyes we see a different American West than we usually read about. An American West that is both beautiful, and harsh. Westerners that rob the land, and love the land. White westerners that are assured of taking what they want, and those of Chinese descent or Native American descent that have no recourse. What an interesting and illuminating perspective Ms. Zhang shares with us.
Should I read it?
A. Pam Zhang writes so beautifully. “They’ve nearly reached the foot of the mountains, one week later, when the rib in the sky thickens. Wolf moon, rarest kind. Bright enough that after sunset and seat rise comes moonrise. Silver pries their eyes awake. The blades of grass, the bristles of Nellie’s mane, the creases of their clothes- illuminated.”I often found myself re-reading paragraphs so as not to miss anything. The first 20 pages or so were a little slow but the story picks up. Lucy and Sam were memorable characters and I loved the way Ms. Zhang shed light on Ba’s story, Very lyrical and inventive writing. I would recommend this one to anyone who enjoys a more literary book.
“What could almost make a girl laugh is how Ba came to these hills to be a protector. Like thousands of others he thought the yellow grass of this land, its coin-bright gleam in the sun, promised even brighter rewards. But none of those who came to dig the West reckoned on the land’s parched thirst, on how it drank their sweat and strength. None of them reckoned on the stinginess. Most came too late. The riches had been dug up, dried out. The streams bore no gold. The soil bore no crops. Instead they found a far duller prize locked within the hills: coal.”