Ba dies in the night, Ma is already gone. Lucy and Sam, twelve and eleven, are suddenly alone and on the run. With their father’s body on their backs, they roam an unforgiving landscape dotted with giant buffalo bones and tiger paw prints, searching for a place to give him a proper burial.
How Much of These Hills is Gold is a sweeping adventure tale, an unforgettable sibling story and a remarkable novel about a family bound and divided by its memories
Published April 2020 by @viragopress
I wasn’t sure when I started reading HOW MUCH OF THESE HILLS IS GOLD if I was going to enjoy it. It’s very different to books I usually read, and in the first 10 or so pages I struggled a little to understand what was going on. But this year I’ve well and truly pushed myself out of my comfort zone and challenged myself, so I persevered. I’m so glad I did as within a few more pages I’d settled into the writing style and ended up really loving it
It’s the story of two siblings, Lucy and Sam, the children of Chinese immigrants come to California during the gold rush to seek their fortunes but finding not only the landscape hostile, but also the western prospectors and employers. Brought up almost feral and in the most deplorable poverty, at 10 and 11 years old they find themselves alone, with the responsibility of their fathers body to bury.
This book isn’t for the faint hearted. The early chapters in particular are brutal as siblings Lucy and Sam trek across an unforgiving landscape searching for somewhere to bury their father. Yet, despite some horrific scenes, there’s a poetic beauty to Zhang’s writing which is really striking
There’s several themes running throughout this book but the main ones are belonging and identity. The question of what makes a home a home surfaces frequently, and explores how it has different meaning to each of the characters. It also tackles issues of immigration, race, class, gender and the validity of recorded history told and shaped by voices outside the real and lived experiences of those it’s telling.
I read this book over several days, savouring the beautifully writing and thinking about the story. There’s a lot to think about for sure. Harrowing, striking, heartbreaking and beautifully, beautifully written, I’m really glad I had the opportunity to read it
Many thanks to the publisher and @tandemcollectiveuk for my #gifted copy as part of the #howmuchofthesehillsisgoldreadalong