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How Much of These Hills Is Gold
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How Much of These Hills Is Gold

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  62 ratings  ·  28 reviews
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
Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: April 7th 2020 by Riverhead Books
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fulfilling book riot's 2020 read harder challenge task #7: Read a historical fiction novel not set in WWII

review to come
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“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
Gumble's Yard
Jan 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
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’
C Zhang
Nov 09, 2019 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
it's the law
Dec 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review; opinions are my own.

Um, wow. I am bowled over by this debut (?!) novel, one of the best I've read in recent memory. The fact that I also just finished BOYS OF ALABAMA and am almost done with REAL LIFE has me all kinds of tingly with excitement for 2020 novels, because these three are fire.

I didn't really know what to expect from a book about two siblings who set off with their father's corpse into the hills of the Southwest
Griffin Alexander
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This land is not your land.
Dec 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Jan 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, monthly-view
On her website, C Pam Zhang describes herself as “Writer, perpetually restless.”

“Perpetually restless” is a good description of the feel of this book. Perhaps in particular of the character Sam, sibling to the main character Lucy.

As the book opens, Lucy and Sam find their father, Ba, has died during the night and they set off to find a place in which to bury him. We are in California in 1862, only not quite the California you might expect. There seem to be tigers, for one thing (although you may
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Really beautiful - gorgeous imagery and human connections. Themes of family, belonging, gender roles, parent and child relationships. All these so lovingly laid out and told in a strong voice of a Chinese girl whose father is a coal miner turned gold prospector in 19th century American West before he dies, leaving her and her little sister alone in the world and seeking somewhere to call home.
Dec 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-kindle
How Much of These Hills is Gold was such a pleasant surprise for me. The quality of the writing was excellent. It is hard to believe this is a debut novel. The characters are vividly drawn. This book reminded me a little of The Luminaries. It is narrower in scope and focuses on one Chinese immigrant family and in my view made for a better story than The Luminaries. If you like historical fiction, family saga, Chinese folklore, or just good storytelling you will probably enjoy this book. Thank ...more
Afton Montgomery
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
With this debut, C Pam Zhang demonstrates the sweeping narrative reach of Rebecca Makkai or Kamila Shamsie and the microscopic attention of a child playing pick-up sticks. The land and the story are odysseys, both, but the characters ache of precision. Zhang's writing feels brilliantly ambidextrous for the way that it uses third person to simultaneously create the varied hauntings of two siblings. Lucy and Sam travel many of the same Gold Rush paths together, but they filter the world vastly ...more
Laura Long
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
Jillian Doherty
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Any story that evokes this many emotion reaction, must to be five stars!

They were parts I loved and delightfully lost in, loving driven journeys, and the character development as a trench through each harrowing part of the story. They were also part that made me angry and wish they would’ve gone a different way~ but either way they created search reactions, the way only evocative storytelling can.

For me it felt like a cross between White Chrysanthemum and Whiskey When We’re Dry - two of my
How Much of These Hills is Gold is a story of family and yearning, set in a dramatic American landscape. Lucy and Sam's father is dead and they are, aged twelve and eleven, off to find a new way to survive. The American Gold Rush is getting old, people aren't always welcome to them as Chinese-Americans, and they are haunted by their childhoods and their parents. As the narrative moves from present to past to future, it is clear that family and secrets aren't uncomplicated and people (and ...more
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a heartbreakingly beautiful story of survival and sibling rivalry set in Gold Rush-era California. The storytelling voice took a little bit of getting used to, but once I reminded myself that the whole story is viewed through the eyes of two children, and told with the vocabulary they had, the book managed to check off the "historical fiction" and "magical realism" boxes for me while maintaining a very musically illustrative pace. They never specifically mentioned "China" or identified ...more
Dec 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
A different western featuring two orphaned Chinese American sisters. They flee from their home and start meandering around the Wild West. Reminiscent of Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, the plot unfolds through time and perspective, intermixed with Chinese symbolism and mythology. Life is hard for these sisters, not because they are children or female but because they look foreign. Set during the gold rush and told from the perspective of people who helped build the west these erased stories are ...more
James Beggarly
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A dazzling story of two Chinese-American kids who look for the right place to bury their father after losing their mother years before. This takes place in California during the end of the Gold Rush. And from that simple start comes an epic story that moves backwards and forwards in time to tell the full story of this family. It’s an amazing first novel that I will remember for years to come and makes me so intrigued as to what this author will try next.
The Artisan Geek
Nov 08, 2019 marked it as to-read
Shelves: bookcase
Riverhead Books kindly gifted me a copy of this book. :)

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Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
Digital arc from edelweiss.

I wanted to love this book. The synopsis has a lot of promise, but the story fell flat for me. The only sentence I can come up with to explain my reaction is “I wasn’t buying it.” Every new thing tossed into the plot had me asking ‘why?’. I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t care about it.
Jill Sanford
Refreshing new voice tackling the Western genre. I loved the sibling relationship, the rhythmic storytelling, the heartbreaking story of survival. One of my favorite ARCS I've read this year and I can't wait to reread when its out next spring.
Dantiel W. Moniz
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An amazing, talented debut novel, full of strange and aching beauty. I can't wait to see what other stories C Pam Zhang will gift the world.
Dec 18, 2019 marked it as to-read
Recommended on the Virago Books Podcast - December 15, 2019
Maxine Chung
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A dazzling debut. How Much of These Hills Is Gold is glorious. I loved every word, every feral, timeless sentence.

"What makes a family a family? What makes a home a home?"
Sarah Etter
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorites coming for 2020. Strange, beautiful, surreal, trembling, evocative.
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
**Review to come**
Sarah Yung
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm an enthusiastic fan of C Pam Zhang's short writings, so I've been eager to get my hands on this. I think Zhang's proficiency in penning shorter pieces shows—the vignette style is compelling, and the prose is often sharp and lovely, even breathtaking, but the plot and character development / emotional resonance are not completely cohesive or satisfying. Still, this novel is definitely worth reading, and I look forward to Zhang's future work.
Jessica Jernigan
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
The story of immigrants and people of color in shaping the “Old West” has been erased from the history that most of us learn. Zhang takes apart the mythology we’ve been taught and adds new stories to create her own mythos. As you might guess from synopses, this is not a gentle read, but it’s compelling one.
Dec 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
A remarkable first novel from C Pam Zhang where nothing is as it first seems. Set in arid California landscape at the tail end of the Gold Rush, it follows the young lives of Lucy and Sam, siblings orphaned by the death of their father. Forced to flee the hovel they called home, Lucy and Sam traverse this unforgiving land, looking for a spot to bury their father. We get glimpses of their childhood, spent moving from one place to another, defined by poverty, discrimination and failed dreams of a ...more
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Dec 14, 2019
rated it it was ok
Jan 20, 2020
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